Hey Defenders! We’ve got another stunning invertebrate for our Animal of the Week, and this one is really a looker. Check out the eye-catching Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly! These butterflies start their life as a dark velvety brown or black and bright orange spotted caterpillar. They feed on the poisonous pipevine plants they’re named after. They eat and wander for weeks before finding an isolated place to pupate inside of a chrysalis, where they undergo a metamorphosis and emerge as an adult butterfly. As adults, they feed on the nectar of the same pipevine plants they fed on as a caterpillar. They also lay their eggs on these leaves. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies are about 3 to 5 inches wide and are found across the Southern United States, East Coast, California, and down to Southern Mexico. They reach adulthood during the spring and summertime.
What Are The Benefits of Butterflies?
Butterflies are not only beautiful animals that have been on the planet for 50 million years, but they’re also very important for maintaining our sensitive ecosystem. Butterflies are an ecological indicator, which means that the health of a butterfly population represents the overall health of their environment. Areas with a lot of butterflies have many other invertebrates, which is great for pollination and pest control. They’re an important factor in the food chain as well.
What Are The 4 Stages of Butterflies?
The first stage of a butterfly’s life is the egg. The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly lays her many tiny round red or orange eggs on the leaves of the pipevine plant. After a few weeks, the egg will hatch and the baby caterpillar immediately eats the remnants of the egg!
The second stage of a butterfly’s life is as a larvae, or caterpillar. Caterpillars love to do one thing – eat! They’ll eat the leaves of their host plant until it’s completely bare, then wander to another plant to do the same. After a few weeks, they’ll find an isolated place to make a chrysalis, or silken cocoon in which to undergo metamorphosis.
The third stage is as a Pupa, within the chrysalis. The butterfly takes several weeks to change from a caterpillar and eventually emerge from the chrysalis as an adult butterfly.
The adult Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly is a shimmery blue with darker back sides of the wings with oranges spots. The males are brighter than the females.
Where Do They Come From?
Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies are found where the pipevine plant is found, in the temperate areas of North America. Although some have been found as far North as Manitoba, Canada, most of these butterflies are found in the lower half of the United States and down into Mexico in forest areas.
Is the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Posionous?
Although not all butterflies are poisonous, the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly feeds on poisonous plants as a caterpillar and is poisonous as an adult. Birds and other animals know not to eat these butterflies. They’re toxic enough to make a human very sick if they eat one. Another poisonous butterfly is the Monarch, which feeds on the toxic milkweed plant.