North Carolina’s new state butterfly, the ornate Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, made an appearance this week in Richmond County.
One of the butterflies — aka Papilio glaucus — was spotted near Ledbetter Lake.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was named the official state butterfly this summer, after the state Senate passed Bill 236 on June 11.
You’ve seen them for years; large yellow and blue butterflies beside the creek or lake.
“Females lay single green colored eggs on the leaves of woody plants,” said the NatureWorks website, nhptv.org. “The caterpillar is brown and white when it is young; when it matures it is green with orange and black false eyespots.”
Scott Hartley serves as the Park Superintendent at Weymouth Woods in Southern Pines. He stays up to date on Swallowtail population trends.
“This is a butterfly that does really well statewide, from mountains to coast,” said Hartley. “They lay eggs on a wide variety of plants, like wild cherry and yellow poplar, which is good because some butterfly species are picky.”
According to Hartley, these butterflies live several weeks at the most. They lay their eggs just about anywhere, so the caterpillars aren’t picky about what they eat.
“This is not a migratory butterfly. It’s local and pretty much stays in the area,” said Hartley. “The larvae’s first meal is the remainder of their shell.”
Hartley said the more they eat, the more they grow, which means they have to shed their skin, which is called instar. This process happens five to six times before the caterpillar forms a chrysalid, which is similar to the cocoon a moth transforms in, but it’s not woven from silk.
These butterflies drink nectar and help pollinate a wide variety of plants when they are not laying eggs. The females generally have several broods a year before her life ends, said Hartley.
As far as the choice to name the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail the North Carolina state butterfly, Hartley said he thinks it’s a good choice.
“They are such a familiar butterfly to everyone,” said Hartley. “Maybe they will hook people into learning more about butterflies. They are an important pollinator and a food for other animals. The caterpillars are a great food source for animals as well.”
State Senator Bill Purcell of Laurinburg said he voted for the bill. He recalled a similar bill that he proposed for a high school civics class from Stanly County, who wanted to see if they could influence government.
“They did their research and found that North Carolina had a flower, a tree, a dog, but no carnivorous plant,” said Purcell. “So I introduced the bill and when (former) Gov. Easley signed the bill into law, the class was there.”
North Carolina designated the venus flytrap — aka Dionaea muscipula — as the official state carnivorous plant in 2005.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.