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!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.