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Yesterday morning I spent some time at Tohono Chul Park, a very attractive privately operated park on Tucson’s west side. This time of year the park is a magnet for all sorts of butterflies, among other species. I was walking through the park when a woman motioned me over. She pointed at some low growth and asked: “Have you ever seen anything like this?” What she was pointing at consisted of several Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, a half dozen or more, all perching quietly on various bits of vegetation. The butterflies, normally hyperactive, weren’t moving. They were so non-responsive that it would have been easy to touch them had I desired to do so.
I looked more closely and then, realized what was going on. These were newly emerged adults, butterflies who had just left their pupal stage. They were slowly gaining energy for their maiden flights. When butterflies first emerge, their wings are folded up and shrunken. The insects must pump fluid into them so as to be able to fly, and the wings inflate like balloons or sails in the breeze. That’s exactly what these butterflies were doing.
I sat for quite a while, watching these butterflies preparing for their maiden flights.
And, then, something else even more fascinating happened. A fully mature Pipevine Swallowtail flew up to the assembled group of emerging butterflies. It landed next to one of them, hesitated for a moment, and then, flew to another one. And, within a minute, the two butterflies were mating.
In this next image you’ll see the pair. The male is on the right and is much smaller than the young female. If you look closely at his wings, you’ll see that, unlike the female’s wings, his wings show a bit of wear and tear.
I know that butterflies as adults essentially live to reproduce. But, so soon after emerging from the larval state?
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 200. The first image was shot at f18 @ 1/200, the second at f13 @ 1/160.