Naturalist Fact: Palamedes Swallowtail

Image courtesy of duke.edu

The Palamedes Swallowtail belongs to the Swallowtail butterfly family (Papilionadae) of which several members are common in the Southeast. The Palamedes Swallowtail is restricted to the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and adults can be found nectaring in suburban gardens, along roadsides, and in moist wooded areas.

It is one of the larger butterflies in the area with a wingspan of 3.5 to 5.5 inches. Its black wings are decorated with a yellow band running across the wing and yellow spots along the margin of the wing. It also has two blue hindwing eyespots ringed with black and a splash of orange, which distinguishes it from the similar Black Swallowtail.

Unlike most other swallowtails, the Palamedes Swallowtail is restricted to a single host plant—the Red Bay tree (Persea borbonia). The female is known to lay eggs only on this tree, usually a single egg is laid upon a new-growth leaf.

Unfortunately, the Red Bay populations along the South Carolina coast, Georgia coast, and into Florida are in serious decline due to an invasive ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) that is believed to have been introduced via the port at Savannah in 2002.

For more info on the Red Bay and the red bay ambrosia beetle, stay tuned for the next Naturalist Fact of the Week!

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