The swallowtail is the queen of the butterflies
The largest butterfly in the Netherlands is the swallowtail butterfly. It is a butterfly with beautifully graceful wings and a graceful wing beat that rightly bears the name swallowtail. At the end of the twentieth century, the swallowtail appeared sporadically in the Netherlands, but in the early 21st century, things are getting better with the swallowtail and the butterfly is even spotted in the north of the Netherlands. The caterpillars of the swallowtail have an organ that emits a foul odor when threatened (osmeterium).
- General characteristics
- Description of the swallowtail
- The Caterpillar
- From doll to image (butterfly)
The swallowtail (Papilio machaon) is a butterfly from the genus Papilio, a butterfly family. The swallowtail has a large distribution area in the early 21st century and can be seen all over Europe, except in Ireland and Denmark. Pages are large and colorful butterflies that bear tails on the wings.
In addition to the swallowtail there is also a royal pageant (Iphiclides podalirius). The king page is also a butterfly from the family of the pages. The royal page has a different wing pattern than the swallowtail. The wing drawing of the king page is more zebra-like and the wing lips on the hind wings are longer. However, the Royal Butterfly is a rare butterfly in the Netherlands and Belgium because it is a heat-loving species.
The swallowtail has a graceful glide and can fly long distances. The wingspan in flight is about 75 millimeters. The female and male swallowtails have no difference in color, but the females have two small red spots on the undersides of the wings, which are missing in the males. The males are also slightly smaller than the females. On average there are two generations of swallowtails in one year. The first generation flies in late April to mid-June and the second generation from early July to mid-September. If it is a warm summer, a small third generation may arrive in October. The image (the adult butterfly) of the spring generation is light yellow while the yellow color of the summer generation is dark yellow. The pattern on the wings can also differ slightly per generation. The swallowtail has a long roller tongue to suck up the nectar of all kinds of herbs, such as red clover, butterfly bush and field thistle. The swallowtail is when sucking nectar, often found on pink and purple flowers. While drinking nectar, the butterflies are constantly flapping their wings. Many of the second generation butterflies hibernate as pupa to awaken in the spring (around May) of the following year. For mating, the males go to higher ground, a hill, a tree or a tall building, and try to attract the attention of a female (hill-topping).
Description of the swallowtail
The swallowtail body consists of:
- the head:
- the brisket;
- the abdomen.
The head of the swallowtail consists of:
- black compound eyes;
The eyes are made up of many small sub-eyes called the ommatidia or facet eyes. The antennae are long and thin and end in a bud. The butterfly has a roll-up tongue (proboscis) that removes the deep nectar from the flowers. The length of the roller tongue varies from 10 millimeters to 150 millimeters and consists of two strongly extended jaw parts that are rolled up under the head when at rest.
The thorax carries the wings. The butterfly has two front wings and two rear wings with wing lips that sit like two tails at the end of the hind wings. The top of the four wings is mostly soft yellow bordered with black lines, the wing veins. Along the edges there is a broad black band that is colored blue at the rear wings and black at the forewings. Towards the wing edge, from the beginning to the end of the wings, there is a row of yellow spots in the shape of crescents. The underside of the four wings is lighter in color and marking than the top of the wings. The long, black and narrow wing lips act as a distraction for potential enemies. Because the wing lips look like antennae, an enemy, such as various birds, attacks the butterfly at the antenna, which can damage the wing lips, but with damaged wing lips, the swallowtail can continue to fly. In addition, the two rear wings have two orange-red spots that have a blue frosting at the top. The orange-red spots also help to deter enemies. The butterfly’s Dutch name may be due to these orange-colored spots; the swallowtail. Only the female swallowtail has two extra orange-red colored spots on the underside of the hindwings.
The abdomen of a swallowtail consists of 11 segments, which are often no longer recognizable as such.
The male swallowtails perform court-topping flights (hill-topping) in the spring, in higher areas, and try to attract a female. A male reacts to a female’s fragrance (pheromones) and mating takes place. The female then lays an average of 150 eggs (this varies from a few dozen to a maximum of 500 eggs) which she drops one by one from the air or glued to the stem or a leaf of the host plant. The eggs are on average three millimeters in diameter and are glued or dropped on host plants such as the wild carrot, common carrot, chervil and dill.
The caterpillar’s body also consists of three main parts:
- the head:
- the brisket;
- the abdomen.
The caterpillar has thirteen segments that are not always easy to distinguish.
The caterpillar’s head consists of the first three segments. The head of the caterpillar is curved downwards and has a bulge on the front. The head has a forked gland that comes out of a fold when disturbed and gives a foul odor, the osmeterium.
The caterpillar has nine pairs of legs of which three pairs of legs (or the real legs) are attached to the thorax (the first segments).
Four pairs of legs are attached to the abdomen, to segments six through nine (propoten). Segment thirteen contains the last two pairs of legs, the post-sliders or belly sliders. The caterpillar clings to twigs or stems with the retractors. The three pairs of true legs are articulated and, after pupation, become the six legs of the adult butterfly. On the fourth through thirteenth segment of the caterpillar, the caterpillar has five orange-red dots. Roughly in the middle of the flank of the abdomen is a row of egg-shaped openings, the stigmata.
From doll to image (butterfly)
The last molt of the caterpillar is pupation. The caterpillar anchors itself against a branch with an anchor wire and slowly tears from the caterpillar hide and turns into a pupa. The pupa hardens until a beautiful swallowtail slowly emerges and lives an average of eighteen days. The pupae of the spring generation are green in color while the overwintering pupae are brown in color. The duration of the first generation pupal stage is about 18 days and the pupae entering winter have an average duration of 200 to 290 days.
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