Giant Swallowtails 2018

Historically, a Giant Swallowtail sighting in the Northeast was a rare and exciting event  because the primary range of the species is the Southeast, where caterpillars forage on the foliage of citrus trees and related host plants. That seems to be changing. Increased sightings of these large butterflies in the Northeast over the last decade provide strong evidence of range expansion. My photographic records are a case in point. I saw my first Giant Swallowtail in Central New York in August, 2011. To date, I have 7 sightings in 8 years. Six were in August, on Phlox, and one was in June, on Dame’s Rocket.

Visits from these beauties are always a surprise encounter, followed by a brief, somewhat frantic, photo shoot. This one appeared in the heat of the afternoon on August 23. It “hopped” and fluttered around a large patch of cultivated Phlox, feeding intensely on the nectar of the tubular flowers. It’s not “fresh” – the hindwings are tattered and the long, spoon-shaped tails missing – but it’s a summer highlight that I won’t soon forget!






Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “Giant Swallowtails 2018

  1. OM Gosh, spectacular. I have only spotted this butterfly on one occasion while hunting ginseng in early September years ago, but I still remember it. Thanks, Nick, for bringing back my memories. You so often do that.

      • I’ve noticed large butterflies more since I moved to the US. I’m interested to see if Sydney, Australia has them also and I never noticed, or we don’t really see that many large butterflies.

      • I don’t know about that part of the world but you should investigate. It’s a rewarding hobby and, unlike the alternative, collecting images is ecologically sound. One key ingredient for sightings is the presence of food plants for larvae. E.g. There is only one species in the citrus family native to the northeastern U.S., which has much to do with the more southerly occurrence of Giant Swallowtails. Good luck!

      • That’s very cool. I will be out hunting with my camera over the Australian summer on the lookout for large butterflies, I hope I have some luck.

  2. Your swallowtails are gorgeous! Pity I have no history built up since moving here last year, but our butterfly population seems to have dwindled some. It’s been very dry here.

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