Nature: Butterflies and Moths

The Anise Swallowtail 八角燕尾蝶 Papilio Zelicaon (Family Papilionidae, Swallowtails)

This compact and sharply-painted small swallowtail is one of summer’s brightest and commonest sprites through western lowlands and foothills. Note the blunt, comparatively short wings, and the clearly defined markings. The similar Bruce’s Swallowtail (Papilio brucei Edw.) has more blue in the wings and is found mainly in the mountains. The similar Oregon Swallowtail (Papilio oregonia Edw.) does not have the wings bordered so widely with black. The design of the yellow spots is very distinctive when studied closely.


The Anise Swallowtail, though a common dweller in flat valleys, is also a lover of windy hill and mountain tops. Here it comes and goes in a perpetual game of trying its wings against the rush of air, finding exhilaration in sweeping low to the ground, almost pressed to earth by the wind’s force, or in pouring its energy into one vast bound upward to the blue sky. The soft red of Checkerbloom or the yellow of Oxalis flowers attract it in the hills.

The yellow green egg, in the form of a perfect tiny puff-ball, is usually laid on the feathery leaves of Anise (Foeniculum sp), but many other of the Umbelliferae family are used, including Rattlesanke Weed (Daucus), and Caraway (Carum). The caterpillar changes from black (spotted with orange) in youth to green (striped and spotted with black and orange) in maturity. The chrysalid if green, is hung on leaves or stems; if brown, on bark or under boards.

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