Spring’s advent is announced any number of ways, depending on what part of the world one inhabits. In the Deep South, wisteria vines taking bloom in otherwise drab, lifeless trees are often the first sign that seasons are changing.
This year, I came across a new harbinger: a brood of recently hatched Eastern tiger swallowtails.
During a weekend drive through the country 10 days ago, I stopped at a small creek to peer at the water coursing below. Being shallow, the creek was more sand than stream. In one of the many islands were eight Eastern tiger swallowtails, a common butterfly noted for its yellow body and black stripes, congregating together.
After snapping a few photos from the bridge, I made my way down to stream level. With each couple of steps, I’d snap photos, not knowing when the insects would take flight.
After a short time I was upon them, and it was only when I touched a couple with my finger did some make a lazy effort at flight. Others simply walked a few inches away.
It was apparent that this group had just hatched and were sunning themselves, letting their wings dry before setting off in search of food.
The Eastern tiger swallowtail is among butterflies that spends winter in a chrysalis, emerging when the weather warms. This made sense as it seemed difficult to fathom caterpillars finding enough greenery to fatten up in winter, never mind surviving occasional below-freezing conditions.
Eastern tiger swallowtails are abundant, being found across much of eastern North America, from Ontario south to the Gulf Coast and into northern Mexico.
Typically, Eastern tiger swallowtails avoid company, except, apparently, just after hatching and, of course, when mating.
Besides birds, swallowtails have a variety of predators, including hornets, praying mantises, squirrels, possums and raccoons.
With bright colors and a wingspan of up to 5.5 inches, one could see how they’d make a tempting target for the butterfly-hungry.
However, within a short time, my kaleidoscope of swallowtails had gained enough strength to safely take flight and make their way into the world.
(Top: Eastern tiger swallowtail resting after being disturbed by nosy blogger.)