Although new species are still being discovered, currently, there are approximately twenty thousand different species of butterflies. One of the colorful members of this massive family is the Swallowtail Butterfly. The Swallowtail branch of the butterfly family tree can also be broken down into approximately 600 species deriving from 4 general groupings:
- Black swallowtails (Papilio)
- Giant swallowtails (Heraclides)
- Tiger swallowtails (Pterourus)
- Pipevine swallowtails (Battus)
The Schaus Swallowtail remains on the endangered list, but chances you'll get to see and enjoy the rest of the Swallowtail Butterflies are good. One of the largest and most visible of the Butterfly species with a wingspan up to 6 inches, Swallowtail varieties are found on every continent of the world, in every state of the United States and even call some Canadian Provinces home. While the colors can vary from golden yellows to black, greens, or hues of blue, the common trait the Swallowtails share are their notable stripes.
The Swallowtail female will instinctively lay her eggs in trees. In approximately 5 days, the larvae will hatch and feed on the greenery provided by its temporary tree home. Gorging on the meal, the caterpillar will reach a length of about 2 inches before it retires into the Pupa stage. The Pupa stage is the longest of the life cycle lasting nearly 2 weeks. It is then the beautifully colored winged Swallowtail Butterfly emerges ready to take flight and continue the survival of the species.
While the Swallowtails prefer wooded areas or grasslands, you will likely find them around some of their favorite food sources - flowers. The Swallowtail enjoys a liquid diet pulling nectar from such plants as Coneflower, oregano, zinnias, Lavender or Milkweed. Drawn to not only the food rich plants like these but also those that provide an ideal spot to lay their eggs. It is important to avoid pesticides to protect their offspring and provide a safe haven for them. Butterflies in general also sometimes enjoy dips in the sand or mud. Here, they can hydrate and absorb needed minerals from the sand or dirt. Creating an area like this in your garden will make it more inviting. Fill a shallow pan with a bit of sand and water. Be sure to include enough sand to allow a safe spot to land.
The short life of the Swallowtail Butterfly should be respected and admired. The beauty of this creature cannot be denied and we should strive to enjoy it as much as possible. Abundant numbers of Butterfly based crafts and lessons is found online to share with our children. A butterfly habitat is an easy and enriching family or classroom project as well and will teach future generations about the fragile but extremely important role of the butterfly in our Ecosystem. A strong presence of butterflies indicates a healthy Ecosystem. Butterflies, like the Bee, help with pollination. On the food chain, they provide nourishment to many other animals including birds and fish. Butterflies, including the Swallowtail, even affect the economy. Across the world, tourists travel specifically to visit Butterfly sanctuaries and learn about this tiny creature that has such a large impact on our environment.
With several Butterfly species becoming extinct, now is the time for each of us to do our part to assure the future of these gorgeous insects. Plant their favorite flowers, without pesticides. Create the water baths they enjoy so much. Offer safe harbors for them so that they can lay their eggs without danger. The Swallowtail Butterfly, in all its beauty, offers us a glimpse at what true beauty really is.