It’s a great summer to be a tiger swallowtail

Canadian tiger swallowtail sucking lilac nectar

On a recent trip to beautiful Manitoba, we stopped for lunch at Pinawa Dam and I ended up spending the entire time chasing these guys. I’m a sucker for butterflies but they so rarely cooperate with me and my telephoto lens. These Canadian tiger swallowtails (Papilio canadensis) were really intent on getting a bit of nectar from the late-blooming lilacs that someone had thoughtfully planted at the picnic site, and so were willing to put up with me for a minute or two.

This one is probably approaching the end of its life; note the tattered wing

Swallowtails are Canada’s largest butterflies. They’re found pretty much across the country, and their larvae feed on a variety of plants. While the tropical swallowtails nosh on toxic plants to make themselves less desirable to predators, these guys were probably raised on a wholesome diet of┬ábirch and poplar.

Canadian tiger swallowtail

It seems that every few years, various forces converge to create an advantageous environment for one kind of butterfly or another. A good winter, a particularly abundant year for larval food sources… whatever it the cause, it seems to be a very good year for tiger swallowtails, both in Manitoba and here on the west coast.

Get out there and see if you can capture a few shots!


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