flowers, herbs, and berries

First Butterfly Sighting of 2017: The Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail

First Butterfly Sighting of 2017: The Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail

Little Falls Farm could also be called a butterfly farm. Last summer butterflies of all colors and shapes flocked to our wildflowers. We have been on the lookout for this year’s first butterfly sighting. Yesterday on our morning farm walk we were stopped in our tracks in amazement over the colors and size of this year’s first butterfly, the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail.

History of the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail

early american swallowtail paintingJohn White, early British settler, is known to have painted the first picture of an American butterfly. The book “Theater of Insects” published in 1634 describes John White’s watercolor of the Tiger Swallowtail,
“The first Day-Butterfly being the greatest of all, for the most part all yellowish, those places and parts excepted which are here blacked with ink. Moreover, the roundles of the inner wings are sky-colour, insomuch that you would think they were set with Saphire stones; the eyes are like the Chrysolite: the bigness and form is so exactly set forth in the figure, that there need no more to be said of it.”

The Tiger Swallowtail eventually became known as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a butterfly usually seen during the summer months. So what is the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail and how is it different from the Eastern? The Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail is believed to be a hybrid of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail and the Eastern. The Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail is distinct from the Eastern by it’s large size, almost twice that of the Eastern. And the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail emerges during the cooler spring temperatures rather than the hot summer months.

We are delighted to have such a rare and beautiful butterfly make its home at Little Falls Farm. What a joy to see a butterfly so early in the spring. Be sure to sign up to receive our “farm notes” for updates on future butterfly sightings.

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