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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.

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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.


2 responses to “Giant”

  1. Helene says :

    Superb picture. I love the bright colors!!!

  2. Liesl Kii says :

    You’re right! I never noticed the all-yellow bodies.

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