I finally get photos of a Giant Swallowtail

A close encounter with Papilio cresphontes (Papilionidae)

Papilio cresphontes male puddling in Kemptville, ON. Photo taken Aug 2 2012
This summer has seen a massive influx of Giant Swallowtail butterflies in this part of Ontario (see my earlier post on this). I went from having never seen one in my life to having seen about 10 already this summer alone. When I'm out in the field I am generally keeping an eye on the butterflies I see, especially the Swallowtails. I typically have my camera with me but currently I only have a 18-55mm lens and I am usually not ready or fast enough to snap a photo. When I am confident about a sighting I try to add them to the eButterfly website. I have really wanted to get photos of Papilio cresphontes this year. Partly because it is exciting to bear witness to (and record) this first wave of butterflies as they expand their range northward, and also partly to have concrete evidence that my sightings and records I have added to eButterfly are valid.

Aside: eButterfly is a website where anyone (including you!) can add their butterfly sightings to help scientists track species distributions and how they change over time. New records are being added all the time, which can be queried to see what butterflies are currently flying in your area. Their website provides a short list of reasons you might want to use thier website:

  • Record the butterflies you see, photograph, and collect
  • Build a virtual collection of butterflies
  • Keep track of your butterfly lists (life, year, provinces)
  • Find butterflies you have never seen!
  • Explore dynamic maps
  • Share your sightings and join the eButterfly community
  • Contribute to science and conservation

Today I had just finished tearing down one replicate field trial of the pastry caterpillar field experiment I am currently running (details to come later). Just as I was leaving I saw a male Giant Swallowtail puddling on the road (I almost ran it over!). I knew it was a male because females almost never engage in puddling. I stopped and opened my car door. To my surprise it was still there drinking! I threw my car in park, jumped out, popped the trunk and grabbed my camera. Long story short, the butterfly must have found a place it liked because for the next 15 minutes it stayed within a 5m radius lazily fluttering from one point on the road to another, occasionally stopping for a rest and prolonged drink. It didnt seem to mind my presence, and I was able to get within 30cm without disturbing him. I am happy and relieved that I managed to get a few nice shots. Here are a few that I liked most:

Note the excess water being excreted from the abdomen.

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