Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (4 August 2012)

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains:
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (4 August 2012) Butterflies of the Adirondacks: Giant Swallowtail in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (4 August 2012) The Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) is a large butterfly that has occasionally been seen in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York in summer. It is a member of the family Papilionidae (Swallowtails), named for the taillike projections on their hind wings, which resemble the tails of swallows.[1] The name "cresphontes" is said to be derived from Cresphonte, a character in Greek mythology.[2]

Giant Swallowtails have long, dark spoon-shaped tails with a yellow center. Seen from above, these butterflies have very dark brown (almost black) wings with a diagonal band of bright yellow spots. [3] The underside is yellowish, with black veins and borders. [4] [5] The underside hind wing has a blue median spot band. [6] The abdomen of the Giant Swallowtail is yellow, with a broad black midline. [7] The wingspan is four to 5 1/2 inches. [8]

Female Giant Swallowtails lay single eggs on host leaves and twigs. The eggs are yellowish or light green and are laid singly on host leaves and twigs. [9] Caterpillars (sometimes referred to as "Orange Dogs") [10] [11] are brown or blackish with a pale cream or whitish saddle in the middle and a large cream patch on the tail. [12] Caterpillar hosts include trees and herbs of the citrus family. [13] [14] Adult butterflies consumer nectar from various plants including lantana, azalea, bouncing Bet, dame's rocket, goldenrod, Japanese honeysuckle, and swamp milkweed.[15] [16] Giant Swallowtail butterflies vibrate their wings while feeding at flowers, possibly for balance.[17]

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (4 August 2012)Butterflies of the Adirondacks: Giant Swallowtail in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (4 August 2012)

The habitat of the Giant Swallowtail includes open woodlands and nearby fields, as well as cities, suburbs, towns, swamps, marshes, bogs, and citrus groves in the South. [18] [19] [20] The Giant Swallowtail is common in the southeastern parts of the US. [21] [22] [23] This butterfly may be found in eastern North America west to the Rocky Mountains.[24]

Most sources indicate that the normal range of this butterfly does not include northern New York and the Adirondack Mountains, [25] although they reportedly sometimes stray farther north than their usual range, occasionally forming colonies. [26] Giant Swallowtails have reportedly been becoming increasingly abundant in the central part of New York State and appear to be expanding along the northeastern boundary of their range. [27] During the summer of 2012, observors throughout New York State reported seeing more Giants than previous years; there were sightings in the northern Adirondacks in late July, early August, and early September. [28] A Giant Swallowtail was present in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House in early August 2012. [29]

References

Explore the VIC

The Paul Smiths VIC offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year to educate and inform Adirondack Park residents and visitors about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Mountains. You can help support these programs by joining the Friends of the VIC. More information on Friends of the VIC memberships

Explore the Trails

The VIC trails are free and open to the public, from dawn to dusk, spring through fall. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers for a fee. Day or season passes may be purchased.