This one seems to have a wider band of yellow than any I've seen so far. Can someone id it for me?
Christie, your swallowtail looks like an anise swallowtail, which is definitely NOT supposed to be in Missouri - Colorado is as far east as it's supposed to occur. You did take this picture in Missouri didn't you? If you did, I think you should contact the person in MO that's responsible for adding new species to counties and states.
I'm linking you to a start for finding that person.
P.S. Keep this picture if you took it in MO!
Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Butterflies
Beautiful picture! Let us know what the final determination is.
I took those photos in my yard (Southwest Missouri) earlier today. If it's an Anise Swallowtail, it IS a long way from home. Do they migrate? Are there any other Swallowtails that look similar?
Well gosh now I'm excited! I brought in some cats awhile back that I thought were just Black Swallowtails but wouldn't it be cool if some of them turned out to be Anise Swallowtails instead! I have two that should be emerging soon I think and a few others that are still eating but big and five that are itty bitty.
I'm going out to see if I can spot it again. Is the photo good enough to tell if it's male or female?
There are several other members of the black swallowtail group that look somewhat similar, but not exactly like your butterfly - yours looks exactly like an anise swallowtail. Also, the range of the other swallowtails is even further west, making it even more unlikely that they'd be in MO. Maybe the continuing drought out west has killed the natural host plants of anise swallowtails - like our black swallowtails, they eat members of the carrot family primarily, but will eat citrus also, like our black swallowtails will eat rue in the citrus family.
I don't know enough about them to sex them, and my books say that the sexes are similar. I think it would be wonderful if you were raising some, Christie!
Since you're in SW Missouri, you're not THAT far out of their natural range, but I hope you'll still contact your state representative and ask him/her to positively ID it for you with your picture.
It does look similar to an Anise Swallowtail!
While strays are possible within reason, I highly doubt this is a stray Papilio zelicaon. I do see why it was guessed as possibly one, but I'll address that.
P. p. asterius is resident in your state whereas P. zelicaon is not. What I think you photographed is a Papilio polyxenes asterius form pseudoamericus.
This form of P. p. asterius has the same traits as the South American subspecies P. p. americus, most noteworthy of which is a more pronounced or wider yellow band that is very similar to nominate P. zelicaon.
A very easy one to confuse, especially by folks who are not into this deep enough to get past using only the nominate species taxonomy of field guides. So don't feel bad if you guessed wrong. Just another example of how easily the common names in field guides, which are almost always associated with the nominate species only, get you in trouble when trying to hang correct taxonomy on the Lepidopteran species that have subspecies, forms, abberations or clines.
So I don't think this will be any kind of state/county record if you run it by your local Lepidopterists Society, especially if you include my guess on determination for them to compare against P. zelicaon.
Great pictures though that do make it easier to ID from.
FWIW, IMO the site often linked to here, "Butterflies and Moths of North America" is just an electronic field guide. It's very basic and at best only a starting point. I supplied some of the data used to compile it back in the days I did lep work with Opler and Stanford. But it leaves a lot to be desired because they lumped all data under the noiminate species level and ignored subspecies and beyond, which are the variations from the nominate level.
You're right, Larry, my field guides don't include p. polyxenes asterius. Maybe the subspecies thing is what explains why so many of the pictures of male p. polyxenes from up north show so much blue on their hindwings in addition to the typical yellow - down here, they have little or zero blue on their hindwings. Black swallowtails must have a LOT of subspecies.
I still hope she sends the picture to the person in charge of officially IDing it - it'd be interesting to read his "diagnosis"!
There are at least four subspecies of P. polyxenes I know of, with a fifth still in speculation. All of them could intergrade if they strayed far enough to cross ranges. But all of the P. polyxenes in North America (Mexico to Canada) are subspecies asterius. Subspecies curvifacia is proposed for a southern Rocky Mountain race, but is not accepted yet as far as I know. The nominate P. p. polyxenese is a Cuban bug. Ssp americus is South American and ssp stabilis Central American.
The variation you spoke of between north and south P. p. asterius is probably just a cline... ie, normal variation of characteristics that occurs within a species/subspecies that becomes dominant in given colonies. It is not a different subspecies though, at least not as of now. Might be a form someday if some researcher proves it.
I agree whole heartedly - send the pictures in. Never hurts to have more than one educated opinion. I've backed mine up with known facts, so let's see what the MO state Lepidopterists says and how they back up their "official" opinion.
CalSherry, I meant to tell you how gorgeous that picture of the anise swallowtails is - stunning!
So astericus is the subspecies I have, Larry? If that's the case, a female astericus emerged yesterday, but it rained all day so I kept her in the cage, just 'hangin' - it's supposed to keep raining off and on today and tomorrow, so hopefully she can fly decently enough for me to release her this morning - can't keep her in the cage forever!
I haven't emailed any photos to our state Lepidopterist yet but I will. I was hoping I might get more pictures today, maybe one with its wings closed.
I'm hoping your right Larry. I was thinking that Anise Swallowtail eggs might have traveled on some plants and then hatched here. I was afraid to ask what the ethical thing to do would be.
If it's a "Papilio polyxenes asterius form pseudoamericus" as you said, what are the odds (if it's a female) that any of the offspring would also have extra yellow?
Thanks, MissSherry. I have an entire nursery filled with the little 'babies' right now of these gorgeous butterflies. :)
As I'd mentioned in my post, the two do LOOK alike but they don't look exactly alike. As Larry says, there are some slight differences. The Papilio zelicaon aka Anise Swallowtail is a beauty when seen in person. I'm certain the one from Missouri is much the same.
The little blue hindwing dots are just so brilliant in the P. zelicaon. Their bodies appear 'furry' to me. :)
As far as I know, MS is still someplace between Mexico and Canada (unless Katrina displaced it) LOL, so your bugs would be ssp asterius OR possible intergrades if strays of southern ssp get into your area. The only way to really stay acurately on top of what you see on your property is to also stay current with books/papers that go much deeper than field guides do. Beyond the scope of most of the folks here probably, but that is why determinations are not always right that are posted here or why variations within a complex are not easily understood with just field guides.
Sure it's possible that ova was transported to your area, and it's also possible stray's blew far enough east. Neither are as likely as your having a bug approaching P. p. a. form pseudoamericus, but it's still possible. The one you photographed is not a stray per se though... its much too freash and would have had to eclose in your general area. As for genetic numbers, it depends some on what a female breeds with. Whether another form pseudoamericus or a nominate asterius male in this case if a P. p. asterius. Either way, at least some of the brood would carry the pseudoamericus traits, many more of them if she bred with another pseudoamericus rather than a nominate asterius. Less dominate "traits" are thrown in every brood, but usually in very small numbers. So even a pseudo X pseudo mating could throw some individuals without the pseudo trait. Add that less dominate traits can be "skipped" for one or more generations only to show up again in a later generation. Why variations in individuals from colony to colony, or even within a colony on different years can add to the confusion. I saw this alot all the years I worked with the biannual broods of several Oeneis species. Even if the bugs were present every year at a given location, the differences between those that were on an even year life cycle and those on an odd year cycle was so great they almost appeared to be two distinct species. And the normal variations of this genus added even more to the genetic soup.
Please do send the pictures in for your local official opinion. But without the bug in hand to compare side-by-side with other sp/ssp that are in hand, their opinion has to be formed just from the traits visible in your pictures and based on what is the most logical, same as I did. And logical is that it is not P. zelicaon, leaving P. p. a. form pseudoamericus a choice. Doesn't mean I guessed right, nor that they will.
Probably as clear as mud and much deeper than most here really care about. But they are valid factors for making accurate determinations.
This is a most interesting post. Thanks for you expert analysis Larry..
The number of minor differences within species is truly mind-boggling.
Sherry, that's a very pretty picture of the Anise Swallowtails. What flower are they nectaring on?
So then, how do I know whether I have a P. p. a. form pseudoamericus or a P. zelicaon? I noticed one difference in wing pattern between the pictures posted here (the P. zelicaon has yellow between the farthest anterior wing vein on the forewing and the next vein to the posterior at the apex). However, my field guide (Butterflies through Binoculars: The West) does not always show that yellow patch on P. zelicaon pictures. Also, how do P. machaon and P. p. coloro fit in?
Even with just species specific variations to deal with, let alone subspecies variation from the nominate species and possible intergrades between any of them, besides being analytical you also have to be logical, practical and presumptuous when doing species determinations. This is especially true when doing so just from pictures without the bug in hand AND the other possible species also in hand (otherwise known as a synoptic collection).
The analytical differences between P. zelicaon and P. p. asterius fm pseudoamericus are actually quite distinct, with several keys that easily separate the two. Would take paragraphs to point them all out and explain them, and even then without a more in depth butterfly book with descent pictures of ssp, forms, etc on hand in front of you it probably would not help you much. IOW, a picture is worth a thousand words, and then knowing how to interpret them. So I will only try to explain the one that is the most obvious in the pictures posted on this thread by Christie and CalSherry. Compare the forewing discal cell patch in Christies second picture to any of those bugs in CalSherry's picture. That's the elongated black patch on the leading edge of the forewing running from the thorax to the wing tip. On Christies bug it is almost a perfect elongated teardrop shape, whereas on CalSherry's there is a distinct "V" below the discal cell base that dips deep into the yellow base color of the wing. Very distinct and this is a key between the two bugs. There are many others that would be harder to explain, so I'll leave it at that. But it points Christie's to form pseudoamericus and CalSherry's to P. zelicaon.
On the logical and practical side the range of P. zelicaon is far removed from where this bug was seen and photographed, while the location is within the known range for P. p. a. fm pseudoamericus. So it is both logical and practical to favor the resident species over one far removed from that location.
Best way I can explain presumption I guess is over time working with the different subspecies, forms, aberrations, clines, intergrades, etc of a specific species you just have a feel for what it is when you see it.
The so called machaon complex comes down to the interpretation of the author, and so which book or paper you reference. IOW, back to the super lumpers and super splitters and which author you want to believe. Several species/subspecies are or are not included in the machaon complex depending on author - has always been that way and why I don't follow a "machaon complex" thing myself.
P. coloro (rudkini) is easily ruled out due to both range and the absence of the correct true lowland desert habitat in MO (it's LFP is Thamnosma montana, which does not occur in MO either).
Another book, but hope it at least is a start on answering your questions.
Best advise I can give to those who want to more accurately determine their bugs is to get books that deal with subspecies on down instead of just relying on field guides that dont go beyond nominate species. Means your common names and the acronyms of them go out the door too though, because at subspecies on down level there is no common names.
Say what? Duh! :)
Sherry - so next time (if there is one), would it help you understand better if I posted my replies in Hawaiian, German or Japanese instead? ;-)
Hehehe!! That was way over my thick head! :)
Try Hawaiian next time, Larry - I'll have some 'Tiny Bubbles' to help me understand.
Thanks for the reply. My main interest in asking the questions that I did in my previous post is for IDing butterflies around my area. I live in Northeast Colorado, where I could easily get both P. polyxenes asterius and P. zelicaon. I understand what you're saying about P. coloro, and I think I understand what you're saying about P. zelicaon. Is the "V" that you mentioned the black part below the FW discal cell that cuts abruptly into the yellow? I'm still lost on the machaon complex, though. You talked about the problems with it, but I couldn't figure out how you tell individuals in it from P. zelicaon and P. p. asterius form psuedoamericus.
What book(s) would you recommend that discuss ssp. and forms and the like?
Yes, the "V" I refer to is basally "hanging" down from the discal cell patch. It's very easy to see the difference between Christies and CalSherry's pictures.
Don't let being confused by the so called machaon complex bother you. Most professional Lepidopterists are just as confused - why they are author specific in whatever book you pick up. Much easier to keep the bugs straight if you go by full taxonomy (beyond nominate species level IOW) and not worry so much what "complex" some author placed them in. Sorry, but I am not going to try to cover all the characteristics that separate species often placed in this complex. That's what in depth books/papers are for.
As for books/papers, those that are family, genera or species specific are the deepest, but probably well beyond most of the folks here's needs. Any book that goes deeper than just field guides will have useful information. Not all are created equal though as even with the good ones most have specific areas they excel in and others they fall flat on their face in. Depends on the agenda of the author(s). Some books are not worth the paper printed on. Why there is not just one book that does it all, and why I have something over 200 in my library. I'm not up on current publications (don't buy them), because they are just reinventing the same wheel IMO. Specific papers are to bring you current. So I still favor the older well done books because they get the job done.
Since you live in CO a good first book to get might be "Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States" by Cliff Ferris and F. Martin Brown. I worked with both of them years ago. As far as I know, Cliff is still alive and kicking in Laramie, WY, but Martin (Colorado Springs) has passed on. Suggest it because it is locality specific to your area, they do hit on subspecies, etc, and do provide adequate pictures and keys. Not really in depth, but enough so to be a big help to you with your local species.
"Butterflies and Moths of North America" by Bill Howe is a book standard, although old enough it may be out of print and would not be completely current on taxonomy or even placement now (my copy has to be 30-35 years old). But it has all entries determined past the nominate species, so offers quite a bit on ssp/form characteristics and ranges, and the simple color plates are often better than actual specimen photographs to do determinations from. As I said, its an old standard for doing determinations, and while not updated still is pretty accurate.
If you really want to play the name game, The Catalog of the Butterflies of United States and Canada by Jon Pelham might be worth having. It lists all taxonomic names that have been assigned to about 800 species and almost 2000 subspecies in NA above Mexico.
I'll leave it at that for now as I doubt you want to buy 100 books. ;-)
Get the first one, if you want more get the second and if you really want to get buried under taxonomy get the third.
Thanks! I just ordered the first one from our library to see how I like it, and may try the other ones, too.
The Anise Swallowtails Papilio zelicaon are on Echinacea. It was a potted plant in my backyard. :) I currently am raising a LOT of these larvae! There was a 'drought' of them...about three years'...until recently, at least for me.
Thanks for the detailed info and beautiful shots all. I have a further question:
On Sherry's swallowtails, the leading edge of the forewing in the submargin has a yellow patch, just below the black costa.
On Christie's, the same area is black.
Is that an identifying mark, or is that a matter of variation within species?
I assume you are referring to the elongated yellow patch along the costal margin of the subapical area of the forewing tip. If so, that patch is species specific but can vary considerably even within a given colony. IOW, up to a point it is a minor key, but since it can vary from clear yellow to shaded yellow to completely absent sometimes in the same species it is not a strong key to ID from on those species that do have the variations. In some species it is totally absent, always, and so can be a minor key.
I wasn't going to get into any other keys between these two bugs because they are not all easily seen in these pictures. But I'll try to give you a couple three more just because you keep asking.
It's only partially visible in these pictures, but look at the venation. That is the black shading along the veins in the otherwise clear yellow areas. Venation is heavier in zelicaon than pseudoamericus, especially in the discal area and along the inner margin of the hind wing.
Also notice the blue patches in the terminal area along the outer margin of the hind wings. There is a complete "band" of them on zelicaon almost from the inner margin to costal margin. On pseudoamericus the "band" only runs from the inner margin part way to the costal margin, with 2-3 blue patches absent.
On the subapical area of the forewing in cell M1 the yellow cell has a black "spot" basally in the cell. In zelicaon it is more a band from vein to vein, in pseudoamericus it is more a dot isolated in the yellow.
A major key is habitat and location as I pointed out before.
Realize that even with normal species variation these keys are somewhat speculative as they can be very distinct from one extreme to the other, or not distinct from individual to individual specimens. So when you key a bug, you have to add up what a bug keys to based on how many of the keys you feel you can attribute to one species or the other. That almost always will point to one bug, but not always. Sometimes you just have to make a presumption.
If you really want to learn, obtain some books or papers that are deeper than field guides, do the research and spend some time in the field observing the leps. Over time you will recognize all your local species and know with some certainty what they are without the help of keys.
If you really want to learn, obtain some books or papers that are deeper than field guides, do the research and spend some time in the field observing the leps. Over time you will recognize all your local species and know with some certainty what they are without the help of keys. "
I think that pretty much sums it up.
Cool! I had noticed all three, but assumed that #2 was a gender difference and that #3 was variable.
Here's a follow-up on my mystery swallowtail:
I emailed photos to our state coordinator who was listed on the Butterflies and Moths of North America website.
His reply said it looked like a Desert black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes coloro), which occurs in the Mojave and Colorado deserts HOWEVER, "Assuming that it has not been relocated, it is an aberration of our local Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes asterius).... It is probably a male since there isnt much blue in the hind wing. Also, the male has more yellow than the female so it is more likely that it will produce this kind of aberration."
He also said he will add the record to the BAMONA database as an aberration of our local Black swallowtail.
Tdogmom - I failed to mention how beautiful that photo is. Wish we DID have Anise Swallowtails here. We do have lots of other butterflies. I don't think I've ever gotten mine to pose so close together for a photo though. : )
Thanks to everyone for your replies.
Imagine that! A Papilio polyxenes asterius abberation (AKA form pseudoamericus possibly).
Thanks for the update Christie.
Bringing this to the top since Elisabeth was asking about aberrant butterflies.
the top ones are defentlee anise swallowtails because they have yellow lines like black swallowtails and are all black
I'll send the photo to my friend Harry Pavulaan, he'll probably confuse most us of just like Larry does.
This CD-ROM has the information on the hybridizing of Black Swallowtails. It has pictures of the same butterfly, sure looks like the P p. ssp. coloro.
"The wings are mostly black in e N. Amer., mostly yellow in Calif. and vicinity, but most adults everywhere have orange in most of the unh median and submarginal spots. Ssp. asterias (most of the range except w Ariz. westward and Sask.-Man.) is black, with most unh (and often unf) spots strongly orange, rather than mostly yellow as in P. machaon (5) and zelicaon (6). The tegulae (Fig. 59) are mostly or completely black (yellow in machaon), and the abdomen (Fig. 58) is black with two rows (plus a partial row) of yellow dots on each side. The yellow uph postmedian bands of males are highly variable, from absent (form ampliata, which resembles a female) to 1 cm wide. Females usually have narrow postmedian bands (or none) in N. Amer. in order to mimic Battus philenor (25); the bands are wide in Cuba (ssp. polyxenes), where B. philenor is absent and the Battus species also have light bands. The median bands are narrower when the larvae are raised under low light intensity (J. Heitzman). A yellow form (ssp. asterias form pseudoamericus) appears very rarely (Ill., Colo., N.M., w Tex., se Ariz., but commoner in e Mex.); its abdomen (Fig. 58) is suffused with yellow on each side between the yellow dots (or rarely blacker with rows of dots). P. "joanae," slightly darker, from c Mo. (possibly ranging east to the Appalachians), I treat as a synonym of asterias; Heitzman treats it as a distinct species because it is said to occur only in woods, to lack orange larval spots and melanic larvae, and to normally have the black segmental larval bands broken into spots. The status of joanae should be studied further. Ssp. kahli (se Sask. in aspen parkland, s Man. east to Winnipeg and north to c Man., and Turtle Mts., N.D.) resembles ssp. asterias, but the black eyespot dot or bar is usually below the center and often connected to the margin, the black line between the blue and red in the eyespot is often narrow or absent, the unh usually has less orange (from none to completely orange in each spot), the female ups median bands are sometimes as wide as those of males, and the tegulae often have a trace of yellow. In form comstocki of ssp. kahli (rare: 0.003 of the larvae found on Zizia plants and raised to adults by J. Troubridge) the yellow covers most of the unh, but the uph median band of females is only 1 cm wide (probably about 1.5 cm in males), and the abdomen has yellow stripes on each side. P. machaon hudsonianus form comstocki may have a slightly hairier abdomen than kahli form comstocki, and more yellow in the unf cell, though the distinction is unclear because P. polyxenes and machaon probably hybridize occasionally in Man. and Sask. C. Remington raised both typical kahli and kahli form comstocki from a cross of two wild black kahli adults with fairly wide yellow median bands. Ssp. kahli evolved through a transfer of genes from P. machaon to polyxenes in past hybridization. Ssp. coloro (= rudkini; in deserts from c Ariz. and sw Utah west to s Calif. east of the South Coast Range) has yellow (coloro) and black (clarki) forms; the frequency of yellow forms increases westward but never reaches 100 percent (10 percent of adults are the yellow form ne of Phoenix, 50 percent at Yuma, Ariz., about 80 percent in the Providence Mts., Calif., 86 percent in Clark Co., Nev., about 98 percent in the Ivanpah Mts. and in San Diego Co., Calif.). Both forms almost always have orange in most of the yellow unh median and submarginal spots and the unf median band. Yellow-wing ssp. coloro adults always have the unh base yellow, but rarely have narrow uph median bands (1 cm, form comstocki of ssp. coloro). The coloro tegulae are slightly yellow. The abdomen of yellow forms (Fig. 58) in males usually has a fairly narrow yellow stripe and above it often a row of yellow dots, and in females one (plus a partial stripe) or two yellow stripes and often dots. Ssp. coloro meets P. zelicaon at the w edge of the s Calif. deserts, where yellow coloro forms are distinguished by having the male abdomen and red unh spots usually differing from those in zelicaon, the unf submarginal spots usually more rounded (rarely in a band as in most zelicaon), the yellow uph streak in cell CuA2 usually longer than the one in CuA1 (usually shorter in zelicaon), and the black uph postmedian band wider. Black form clarki is like ssp. asterias (on the abdomen also), but the unh spots usually have less red, and females have a narrow yellow fw median band. F. Thorne hybridized coloro and asterias and their offspring for many generations in the lab, and he and D. Bauer both raised both black and yellow forms from eggs laid by either yellow or black females, proving that they belong to one species. Other ssp. of polyxenes occur south to Colombia-Peru, where black and yellow forms also fly together. P. polyxenes seems to hybridize occasionally with P. machaon, zelicaon, and brevicauda."
Thank you Runmede - I'll have to look up a few (or more than a few) definitions to understand all that, but that's how a person learns. : )
I appreciate the information about the Ozark Swallowtail especially. I've been trying to learn more about those and trying to figure out if I have them here. It would help me to know whether they hold their wings the same way as Black Swallowtails when they're nectaring since they look so much alike.
You're welcome to send my photos from this thread and the other one to your friend.
Here's a link to the one I spotted this year, a lot the same but it has a yellow body.
Wondering how I missed all this. Adding more stuff to my "buy list" for today.
Ladobe mentioned ""Butterflies and Moths of North America" by Bill Howe. Actually should be "The Butterflies of North America," as far I could figure out.
As for "The Catalog of the Butterflies of United States and Canada" by Jon Pelham, the printed copy seems to be available only through BioQuip. BUT, the updated 2012 version is online. Link is below.
I had forgotten about Christie's unusual butterfly, KC - thanks for bumping this one up!