For as long as I can remember I have had an interest in butterflies. In fact, one of my fondest memories as a child during the 1970’s was raising monarch butterflies every summer with my mother’s help. She would drive me to places where milkweed was growing and would help me find the tiny eggs and caterpillars, which we would bring home, raise and then release the adults. We would raise hundreds each summer. What is truly sad is that today, finding eggs and caterpillars seem to be almost impossible as monarch populations are on the decline.
The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is perhaps the most popular butterfly in the world. Its large size and contrasting orange and black coloration make it highly recognizable and its annual migration of up to 3,000 miles south make it seen by more people than perhaps any other species of butterfly in the world.
Welcome to part one of a series I am doing called Species Spotlight. Each entry will showcase one particular species of invertebrate, whether it’s a butterfly, a moth, an arachnid or a millipede. Wherever possible I will use my own photographs and each entry will feature general information of the species as well as any additional notes that I can add, based on working with said species. The topic of this entry is the Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor.
I have had a lifelong fascination with lepidoptera, the study of butterflies and moths. Ever since I received a kit for Christmas for collecting them when I was seven, I have been hooked. As a child I have many great memories of being out with my net collecting various species of local butterflies. Then, at night, I would be out again checking out the local street lights seeing what moths were attracted and wondering why, if moths only flew at night, were they were so attracted to lights? As the years went on I started to notice a pattern. The places where I used to collect were no longer available as they had been renovated for new houses, shopping centers and condominiums. I also noticed something else…the numbers of wild species flying around were not there anymore! It was obvious that this habitat destruction was taking its toll. This was when my attitude towards butterflies and moths changed. Even as a child it was obvious we were hurting the environment.