Category Archives: butterflies

Return of the Giant Swallowtail

Last August, the butterfly bush in my front garden attracted the first-ever giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) to Plummer’s Hollow. Two days ago I spotted our second — a little earlier in the month and in much better condition — at the very same bush. It stayed for less than five minutes. I slowed the video to half speed; this was a very fast-moving creature, which perhaps explains how it manages to disperse so far from its larval habitat of citrus trees.



Monarchs on the move

foggy monarch The monarch butterfly migration is well underway, with higher numbers than we’ve seen in many, many years. With close to fifty acres of goldenrod and asters in our First and Far Fields, we get a lot of monarchs coming in to nectar and spend the night. And with nighttime temperatures falling into the 40s and 50s (5-15 C), the monarchs tend to seek each other out in late afternoon so they can spend the night in small clumps in the trees. The next morning, the fields are aflutter with hundreds of monarchs, especially bordering Sapsucker Ridge where the sun strikes first.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a robust monarch migration throughout the east. My Uncle Hal drove up from Beckley, West Virginia the other day, and said he was dodging monarchs all the way. And a post to the Pennsylvania Birding listserve on Thursday reported a staggering 7,000 monarchs in one morning at a hawk watch in Northampton County. The poster, Michael Schall, says, “It was non-stop on the clicker trying to get a decent count with my total of nearly 7000 by the time I had to leave at 1300pm conservative at best. Most were counted between 0900 and 1030 as numbers were light when I left for work.” This jibes with our impression of the greatest movement occuring in the morning.

To see what our main field looks like when the goldenrod is in bloom, click on the newly illustrated “Where and What is Plummer’s Hollow?” page and scroll down to the bottom.


Giant swallowtail

Giant swallowtail

Yesterday afternoon around 5:30, a very tattered giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) appeared on the butterfly bush in my front garden. This was a new record for the mountain. We watched it nectaring for about ten minutes before it flew away.

The larvae feed on members of the citrus family, so this butterfly’s tattered appearance is understandable. I found the following on eNature:

Known as the “Orange Dog” by citrus growers, the Giant Swallowtail is sometimes considered a citrus pest and is subjected to massive spraying. It is capable of flying long distances and often strays into northern and midwestern districts.

My photos of the butterfly are here. See also my lepidoptera set on Flickr.