Butterflies

Who doesn’t love butterflies?  They’re colorful, quiet little invertebrates that not only pollinate the flowers, but also beautify any garden.  What’s more, they great indicators of an ecosystem’s well being.  In other words, butterflies thrive in a healthy ecosystem.

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Each spring the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail visits my jasmine vine.  It’s the state butterfly of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Delaware, but it seems to enjoy Arkansas as well.

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The Swallowtail Family are known to be the largest butterflies on the continent.  With a wingspan of 3 to 5 1/2 inches, my fascinating visitors certainly live up to their name!

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Throughout its short life, it has an incredible defense system that keeps predators away.  It resembles bird droppings as a young caterpillar, and as a larvae, it secrets a foul smelling substance when pecked or touched.

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I have to admit, I have been confused a time or two when my guests arrive, thinking they are Monarch Butterflies.  And I was actually thinking about the Monarchs when I found these photos.  They differ, however, in two ways.  Monarchs are more orange in color.  Also, unlike the Monarch, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is not migratory.

What that means for me is that each year, in my mind, the Swallowtails that flit around my garden are part of the same family that has been sipping nectar from my flowers for years!

Well, this actually may not be true.

I’m certainly not an entomologist, but I know that, when the jasmine blooms again next spring, I can count on the return of these outdoor friends!

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