One of our biggest challenges has been telling apart Eastern Black and Spicebush Swallowtails. Their shape, size, and markings are very similar. In fact, both are mimics of the foul-tasting female pipevine swallowtail, adding another butterfly species into the mix to confuse those trying to identify them. However, if you happen to see these butterflies at rest with their wings open, there is a pretty simple trick you can use to help you out. Kristen G, who runs the butterfly garden and historic tree grove at MOSI, explains:
"The best way to be sure is to follow the inside line of the hind wing to the bottom, near the tails. Spicebush Swallowtails may have a blush of orange marking but [Eastern] Black Swallowtails have an orange or yellow marking with a black eye-spot in the center."So, let's compare. In first picture below, which we took last year and correctly identified as an Eastern Black Swallowtail, we can clearly see the eyespot Kristen describes.
In this next picture, taken this past weekend, the eyespot is absent. This picture shows a male Spicebush pursuing a female. The female's markings, shown clearly in the first picture of this post, are even more similar to the Eastern Black's.
Life would be easier here in My Florida Backyard if we didn't have inquiring minds that always want to know "What exactly is that?". We could just sit back and enjoy the spectacle, and we often do. But we're happiest when we know exactly what we're looking at, because then we can learn more about it, including how to make sure it visits My Florida Backyard again and again!