Glamor Shots September 01, 2007
It is often difficult to get a good photo of this member of the Swallowtail clan with its wings open. The Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes is one of the smaller swallowtail, but it is no less beautiful than its relative the Giant Swallowtail. Black Swallowtail are fairly common, especially in areas where the well known alien, Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota abounds. Black Swallowtails consume many types of plants in the Apiaceae or carrot family, from your basic garden carrot (What's up doc?), Queen Anne's Lace , to parsley and dill. Their lovely green and black caterpillar reminds me somewhat of a monarch cat, as they are both hairless and striped.
This particular one was porch raised, and photographed extensively upon his emergence. I prefer to let the guys enjoy their lives in the wild, but I had brought this little parsley-snacker inside to admire, when he suddenly decided it was time to adhere to the vase containing his lunch and transform into a pupa. Two weeks later he was modeling for the cover of B-Q in his brand new suit of black satin, with double stitching.
One fascinating feature of this handsome close-up is the coiled proboscis. Jimmy Durante might have thought proboscis meant nose- but the well informed know it is a special sucking tube for feeding. It is the means for slurping nectar from deep within flowers. Next time you have an opportunity to watch a butterfly closely, note how methodically they work work their proboscis into each individual flower. You will come away with a whole new perspective of these lively lepidopterans.