Butterflies – Black Swallowtail – Papilio polyxenes

Butterflies – Eastern Black Swallowtail – Papilio polyxenes

The above photograph of a Black Swallowtail butterfly was taken near Massena, NY on our way back from spending a few days in Lake Placid, New York, climbing Cascade Mountain and driving up to the peak of Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks.

We had parked at a shopping center when I looked out over some unkempt hillside and saw this butterfly fluttering from flower head to flower head of the New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-anglia).

The two images below were taken in an open meadow in a section of the National Capital Commission (NCC) green space in Ottawa, Ontario while an enforcement officer was approaching to investigate why I was down on my hands and knees :-).

The Black Swallowtail butterfly is a medium sized butterfly (8 – 10 cm) which can often be found around Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), the white flower in the above photo, as well as around related members of the carrot family of plants such as fennel, dill and parsley. Another carrot member plant, the parsnip, is also on this butterflies list of favourites and that explains its other common name of Parsnip Butterfly. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma and is well distributed in the North Eastern USA and the Maritime Provinces of Canada excluding Newfoundland. In Ontario and Quebec, it is fairly common in the south and its range extends along the shoreline the Great Lakes over to the Lake of the Woods area of Northern Ontario. From there its population tends to drop off as one moves further west. Generally, there will be two brood periods per year, one in late Spring and the other in early to mid-August.


If  conducting a popularity poll based on the number of books published about any particular species of butterfly, the Monarch Butterfly would win hands down.  The Tiger Swallowtail and the many tropical species of Swallowtails get their place in the sun but very few books except identification guides give much space to the Black Swallowtail even though it managed to become the State butterfly of Oklahoma.

For Butterfly Field Guides, I use a variety of them since none seems to satisfy all of my needs. Both the Peterson Guide and the Audubon Guide are useful and I’ve used both. Haven’t purchased the National Wildlife Guide to Insects for myself yet but reviews appear positive. The Kaufmann Guide covers all of North America but doesn’t include any larval forms so that might be a limitation for some users.



About Ron

Ron has long had an interest in photography and traveling and, in recent years, has had more time to devote to both activities. Long a Pentax user, Ron switched to Nikon gear when he went digital. The advent of the digital SLR camera, and the ease of the internet blogging process, has provided a venue for sharing his photography and travel experience at the local, national and international level. More about Ron
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