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Friday, July 5, 2002

ANIMAL TRACKER

Swallowtail


* Japanese name: Kiageha
* Scientific name: Papilio machaon
* Description: There are several species of swallowtail butterflies in Japan, all of them easily recognizable by their swallowtails -- the tail-like appendages on the edge of the hind wings. Body length is 36-70 mm. Swallowtails have fully developed forelegs (some species of butterfly have brushlike legs) and beautiful yellow wings with black lines and a blue-black border. There are two orange spots at the base of the hind wings.
* Where to find them: In bright places, especially fields and plains, all over Japan, from March to November. New swallowtail adults appear up to four times a year. Swallowtails live in a wide variety of habitats, from the oceanside to mountains 3,000 meters high, and can even be seen in central Tokyo. They are strong fliers, able to travel long distances in search of food.
* Food: Nectar from thistles, azaleas, lilies, Japanese parsley and carrots.
* Special features: Caterpillars are soft and would make a nice snack for a bird, so, in defense, young swallowtail caterpillars exude a foul smell as they hatch. They are colored black with a white "saddle," which makes them look more like bird droppings than butterfly larvae. As they grow, the caterpillars develop orange markings, telling birds that they would taste bad. After about 20 days, the tiny caterpillar has grown huge and is ready to pupate. The caterpillar attaches itself to a twig and forms either a green or brown pupa, depending on the time of year. A green pupa will hatch in the same year; a brown pupa will hibernate and hatch the following spring. Adult swallowtails can often be seen congregating on the summits of hills, a phenomenon known as hilltopping. This behavior is performed by males, who ride air currents to high points in order (it is thought) to check their territories and to look for females.



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