Puddle Clubbing with Swallowtails!


An exciting tangent to my annual camping and fishing trip in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania is the opportunity to witness butterfly “mud-puddling”.


Prime habitat for a puddle club of swallowtails: a gravel parking area along a mountain road in a heavily forested area, with plenty of mud puddles and sun.

Many species of butterflies puddle, but aggregations of eastern tiger swallowtails in the endless deciduous forests of this region are spectacular. They’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the Northeast.


A “puddle club” of eastern tiger swallowtails


Most puddling butterflies are fresh males and the event lasts but a few days in late May and early June.


Do butterflies puddle due to a scarcity of nutrients, as an alternative foraging strategy arising from competition, or a combination of factors? There is still much to learn about puddling, but the most convincing hypothesis supports resource scarcity.


Sodium ions and amino acids ingested by puddling male butterflies are transferred to females during copulation, enhancing egg production and survival.


Puddling behavior is well known in gardening circles and there are many published strategies for creating butterfly puddle-clubbing habitat in formal landscapes. Once you’ve been immersed in a wild, surreal scene like this, it makes sense. Totally!


Photos by NB Hunter (late May and early June, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.




9 thoughts on “Puddle Clubbing with Swallowtails!

    • Hi Nick, I don’t know if you remember me, it’s been a long time since we have seen each other. These pictures are simply magnificent. The birds, the flowers, the wildlife just fantastic. I just took a picture of butterfly on my Tinker bell lilac bush but don’t know how to send it to you. If you remember me maybe we could meet and have coffee and just catch up. My better half and I could meet in Morrisville if you would like. Have been running into old friends lately, hope we can get together. Again beautiful shots.

  1. Hi Nick, The swallowtails are lovely! What an awe-inspiring experience. I am particularly fond of the swallowtail with its reflection in the puddle. Thanks for sharing. Kathy

    • Thanks Kathy. I’ll keep that in mind when I order prints. Lots to talk about after this camping/fly fishing tradition comes to a close, but this phenomenon always rises to the top of the list.

  2. Fascinating stuff. I learn so much by following you. We’re making a conscious effort at the new abode to plant native species, hoping to entice more wildlife. I’ll be searching ways to perhaps encourage this puddling phenomenon now! 😀

  3. Thanks Gunta. I just hiked past 2 dozen woodland puddles (home) and didn’t see a butterfly. The research that I’ve read appears to be in the early stages, a little sketchy, i.e. many variables unaccounted for. E.g., in contrast to my home territory, the mountainous area where the photos originated has an acidic, infertile soil – is this the trigger? Anyway, it’s worth a try!

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