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The other morning I was very pleased to be able to photograph a Giant Swallowtail. This butterfly is aptly named because it is about the largest butterfly species in North America. Its wingspan can easily top five inches.
I was especially pleased by the fact that this is a perfect specimen. Its wings are intact and show none of the tears and shredding that large butterflies often display. Butterflies lead a difficult existence. Not only are they subject to gusts of wind but they constantly have to avoid predators such as insect-eating birds. Something is always trying to take a chunk out of their wings. Finding a specimen as intact as this one, therefore, is a rare treat.
These are not easy butterflies to photograph. They never sit still for very long and capturing one broadside like this individual is usually a matter of luck. I’m not showing all of the images that I made that are wasted efforts.
Giant Swallowtails are not a uniquely Arizona species. They can be found throughout the southern United States. There are other species that somewhat resemble Giant Swallowtails, but none have the all-yellow bodies and striking cream-yellow inner wings of the Giant Swallowtail. Interestingly, these butterflies produce extraordinarily ugly caterpillars. Giant Swallowtail caterpillars are colored and shaped to resemble bird droppings. A nice bit of camouflage, to be sure, but a bit ironic, considering how beautiful the adults are.
Image made with Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 200, f14 @ 1/160.