Tag Archives: Papilio cresphontes

GIANT SWALLOWTAIL ALERT!!

One of our West Gloucester readers, DB, spotted a Giant Swallowtail in her garden! She was too surprised by its appearance to take a photo, and I completely understand why. They are fantastically large in size, as large as a Cecropia Moth. Giant Swallowtails are more of a southern species, but sometimes make it this far north and east, especially during long stretches of hot, humid weather.

Readers, please keep your eyes peeled, and if you can, try to get a snapshot, and please let us know of your sighting. Look for Giant Swallowtails nectaring in your garden; they especially love native Marsh Milkweed, tropicals such as lantana and bougainvilla, also butterfly bushes, Wild Sweet William, and honeysuckle.

I have only see one once in my garden (in 2012) and it was drinking nectar from the lantana growing in pots on my patio. By the time I ran indoors and back to the garden with camera, the Giant Swallowtail was gone. The photos are from wiki commons media so you can id the butterfly if you see one in your garden. Happy spotting!

The yellow will be paler on an older butterfly as the scales wear off, but look for the arrangement of the spots for an id.

Giant Swallowtail Butterflies, with a wingspan of up to 6.5 inches across, are noticeably larger than Eastern and Canadian Tiger Swallowtails (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, left, Giant Swallowtail, right).

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Alert!!!

Last week the Giant Swallowtail butterfly visited our garden for a brief moment. I ran indoors to get my camera but it had departed by the time I returned. This morning my my friend John, who lives across from Folly Cove, emailed to say he too has spotted a Giant Swallowtail. John and I correspond regularly about butterfly sightings–I love to hear about what he is seeing on the other side of the island– and this is the first time both he and I have observed Giant Swallowtails in our gardens.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) Photo Courtesy Marti Warren

One of my readers, Marti Warren, wrote in on Monday that she spotted a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly last week in her garden in Amherst, New Hampshire. 

From my favorite butterfly book, Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech and Tudor, “Although they are not regular migrants, Giant Swallowtails have appeared with some consistency as vagrants in the North, and occasionally form colonies.”
On the range map provided in the above book, the northern border of Massachusetts is at the end of the Giant Swallowtails range so I think it is fairly unusual to see one in central New Hampshire.
 Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilo polyxenes)

Three easy ways to know whether you are seeing the more common male Black Swallowtail or the Giant Swallowtail.

1) The wingspan of the male Black Swallowtail is approximately 3.2 inches; the Giant Swallowtail’s wingspan nearly five inches.

2) Both the male and female Giant Swallowtails have a band of yellow spots that converge near the apex.

3) Additionally, the only blue irredescence on the Giant Swallowtail is a semi-circular “eyebrow” over the orange and black eyespots.

Let me know if you think you have seen a Giant Swallowtail in your garden recently. If you have a photo, even better!