Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pipevine Swallowtail

A stunning Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly emerges from its chrysalis on a warm, sunny day. I always love these magical moments in nature, when you capture a snippet of life unfolding right before your eyes. The colors on a brand spanking new butterfly are so vibrant, so perfect, so breathtaking.

Pipevine Swallowtails, Battus philenor, rely on members of the pipevine family or birthwort family, Aristolochiaceae, for their main larval food plants. One of the members of this family that lives in Indiana and Ohio is Virginia Snakeroot, Aristolochia serpentaria.

To view the strange flower of Virginia Snakeroot, one must brush aside the leaves on the forest floor. The odd reddish flowers are designed to mimic carrion and are believed to be pollinated by flies.The pollination method of these flowers are interesting. The corolla or tube of the flower is lined with hairs that point inward. This allows entry, but no exit. Once inside, the fly is trapped. The flower will shed pollen onto the insect and then the hairs will wilt. The fly is given its freedom so the process can happen all over again with another flower. Virginia Snakeroot does not live in Indianapolis, yet Pipevine Swallowtails do, so I was puzzled about how that was possible...

Then I recently found out that Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense, is another alternate host plant. It is also in the Birthwort family. Mystery solved! Wild Ginger, with its pretty heart-shaped leaves, is fairly widespread in woodlands throughout Indiana and Ohio and there are even large patches here at Southeastway Park.



Bug Eric said...

Very nice pictures, and I learned something new, too: Didn't know that Virginia snakeroot was a host plant! Very cool. You deserve more followers:-)

Janet Creamer said...

Thanks, Eric.