Giant Swallowtail Butterfly at Enchanted Forest
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – ENCHANTED FOREST PARK – NORTH MIAMI, FL
This photograph of a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly atop red Salvia, was taken at Enchanted Forest Park, located in North Miami, Florida. The camera gear used was a Nikon D90 camera body attached to a Nikkor 60mm 2.8 lens, at a distance of at least 10 feet.
The Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) is a swallowtail butterfly common in various parts of North America and marginally into South America (Colombia and Venezuela only). In the United States and Canada it is mainly found in the south and east. With a wingspan of about 10–16 cm (3.9–6.3 in), it is the largest butterfly in Canada and the United States.
The giant swallowtail are insects which is widely distributed throughout the American continent. Its range extends from southern New England across the northern Great Lakes states, into Ontario, through the southern portions of the Central Plains to the Rocky Mountains. The species ranges southward to Florida and the Caribbean, into the southwestern United States, and on through Mexico to Central and South America. The giant swallowtail is very common throughout the entire state of Florida. It is active throughout the year in southern Florida, and is common in northern Florida, except in January and February.
Adult giant swallowtails are large butterflies with a forewing span of 4.6 to 6.9 inches (avg. 5.5 inches) for males and a span of 5.3 to 7.4 inches (avg. 5.8 inches) for females. The dorsal wing surfaces of the butterfly are black with a striking diagonal yellow bar across the forewings. The ventral wing surfaces are primarily yellow. The giant swallowtail is very distinct from all other swallowtails found in Florida, except for the endangered Schaus’ swallowtail, Papilio aristodemus ponceanus, which is confined to the Florida Keys. The giant swallowtail can be distinguished from the Schaus’ swallowtail by the yellow-filled “tails” (Schaus’ swallowtail tails are all black), and the small, brick-red patch just interior to the blue median band on the ventral hind wing.
Salvia is a member of the mint family and it’s name is derived from the Latin word salvo, which means to save or to heal. The plant used to be commonly used for medicinal purposes such as soothing colds and headaches, but it’s modern day function is primarily to add red pops of color to flower beds. Red salvia is also known as scarlet sage and firecracker plant.
Red salvia will bloom from summer until the first killing frost of fall and is hardy in all zones. Most salvias are red, but are available in orange, white, blue, purple and pink bloom colors. The plant bears a multitude of small flowers on a spike which can reach the mature height of almost 3 feet, depending on variety planted. When planted in a group, the tall red spikes of flower resembles flames of fire.