I recently visited a grove where the Pipevine Swallowtail’s host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine, grew vigorously. Here, in this shaded and otherwise peaceful wood, there was a state of butterfly pandemonium happening.
Male butterflies zealously chased female butterflies hoping to strike up a romance. The maternally driven ladies ignored the amorous males advances, and instead, tirelessly their laid eggs.
Other winged chaps spent their time attempting to defend their precious territories. Boldly these fellows chased their counterparts about the treetops, creating flashes of brilliant blue which rivaled the skies above. Stoic females continued to cooly oviposit, again, dismissing out of wing, the males showy displays.
The forest was a frenzy of flutter! Everywhere I stood I was bombarded by the scuttle of a wing. It was courtship chaos where no basking perch, nectar blossom nor host tendril was safe!
The pipevine butterflies exhibited crazed mating and reproductive behaviors, as if they had all gone wild with passion. In no other species have I observed the sexes acting out their respective roles in such a fervent manner.
Made me wonder for a moment, if these swallowtail caterpillars had actually smoked, instead of ingested their host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine?
This hardy vine does, after all, as it’s name suggests, resemble a Dutchman’s pipe. When in bloom it flaunts, amongst it’s green-hearted foliage, oddly shaped flowers which form in an appearance similar to that of a dutchman’s pipe.
Whatever the motivation, pipes or genetics, what was going on in the grove that day was nothing short of spectacular to behold for the butterfly enthusiast. Pipevine swallowtails are indeed vibrant and entertaining creatures at every stage of their development.
Years ago, when less exotic planting choices where available at local nurseries, people commonly grew Dutchman’s Pipevine in their gardens. Often they used it to cover and adorn porches, arbors and fences. Pipevine swallowtails could then be found more frequently in populated areas, even in urban neighborhoods.
To ensure the survival of this species be sure to plant Dutchman’s Pipevine somewhere in your yard. Keep Mother Nature’s show going! Support her dramatic and colorful productions. Then just sit back under your vine shaded porch, sway gently on your swing and enjoy the show… and your Pipe?… vine too! KD
Click the Pipevine’s Wing below to learn more about this swallowtail…