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PALAMEDES SWALLOWTAIL Papilio palamedes


Palamedes.jpg (41737 bytes)Palamedes is one of the most abundant butterflies in my garden.  They love my red Penta, and are one of the first butterflies I see in spring.  It's a large swallowtail, with a wing span of 4 1/2 - 5 1/8 inches, making it one of the largest butterflies in North America.  It is a black-brown butterfly with a broad yellow band on each hindwing.  Its tails are straight-sided and do not expand into a club shape, like those of the Giant or Black Swallowtails.  It also has a yellow stripe along the body.  It is very abundant in wet woods near rivers and broadleaf evergreen swamp forests. 

Eggs are yellowish-green.  Host plants are members of the Laurel Lauraceae Family, and include redbay Persea borbonia, BSwalUnd.jpg (64985 bytes)sweet bay trees Magnolia virginiana, and sassafras Sassafras albidum.   Caterpillars look very much like bird droppings in it's early stages.  Later stages are grass-green and have large rimmed orange eyespots with black pupils on the thorax, and mimic a snake to scare off predatory birds.  They possibly overwinter as a caterpillar as well as a chrysalis.   Butterflies nectar on other plants beside the red Penta:  porterweed, sweet pepperbush, thistles, blue flag, and azalea.  They'll also nectar at pickeralweed, which grows in shady spots in swamps, and are reported to roost communally in oaks and palmettos.

Palamedes have been wonderfully described as "the signature swallowtail of the great [southeastern] swamps."  It defiantly fits in my garden.  I see them every time I go out in the garden, nectaring along with the Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Sulphurs, Black Swallowtails, and Pipevine Swallowtails.  Palamedes is always there.

They are closely related to the Spicebush Swallowtail (which I haven't seen).   Both have similar courtship flights.  Sometimes the two species will court each other.

 

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