Tattered Anise Swallowtail sipping on Red Valerian


Anise Swallowtails Papilio zelicaon have been flying through the garden for several months now, but they fly so quickly that I haven't been successful whenever I try to photograph them.

Until now.

During these hot August days, all the pollinators are busy in the garden, and butterflies abound.

Since some of the flowering plants are going dormant, while the autumn asters are preparing to bloom, the ever blossoming red valerian plants provide a vital nectar source for the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

This Anise Swallowtail spent a lot of time on the blossoms.

It was a puzzle to me at first, if this really was a swallowtail.

The dark brown and yellow markings seemed right, but the distinctive tails were missing.

Also the blue and orange spots weren't there.

But if you look very carefully, you can see a tiny bit of blue on the lower right wing, at the tip.

Poor butterfly!

The loss of the tails didn't seem to affect its ability to fly and move around on the flower head.

But it could be more susceptible to predators without the "back to front mimicry" of the tails.

It could have lost its tails escaping from a predator, possibly a spider's web.

We once discovered in the garden one of these swallowtails fluttering frantically as it was caught in a long horizontal filament stretching from a spider's web.

We immediately freed it.

This swallowtail may have escaped from a bird, spider or dragonfly.

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