Calvert County’s Zebra Swallowtail
Disquise and foul odor protect this butterfly
Caterpillar Survival Rule No. 1: Be disagreeable.
Eurytides Marcellus, the Zebra Swallowtail, a striking butterfly in classic black and white, is Calvert County’s official butterfly. Whether chosen for its instantly recognizable good looks, for its clever defensive tactics or both, the Zebra’s admirers must decide; details of the mascotorial appointment are lost to history.
Moving across the landscape in aerial scout fashion, the Zebra seldom settles for long. It lights near edges of puddles or ponds and favors zinnias, summer phlox and butterfly weed.
The larva feed on foliage of the pawpaw, the American banana, a shrub or small tree once plentiful in the understory of hardwood forests. Smooth and light-green, the larva’s bulbous head and oversized eyespots imitate a snake. If disguise isn’t sufficient, when disturbed it flashes a bright orange, forked apparent tongue that emits a foul odor. This cunning caterpillar has Rule No. 1 covered.
There is no chasing a scout on the wing, so I was pleased to snap this photo of the Zebra in refueling mode.
Does anyone besides me see Lewis Carroll’s hookah-smoking caterpillar? Or a dark-coifed fairy in zebra-striped wings?