Late Summer is a special time in the desert in Scottsdale. With so many plants in bloom, all the pollinators, and especially the butterflies, have been very busy.

While out on an early morning walk I was intrigued by the amount of activity around the Red Bird of Paradise bush (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). I hope I got the genus right this time — if I didn’t, my friend Jan Bel Jan (and golf course architect extraordinaire) will let me know!

I stood still, fascinated by the gigantic black butterflies flitting all about this bush. Since I wasn’t sure what they were, I sent a photo to Derek Kellogg, the Entomologist at Butterfly Wonderland, to ask him to identify them.

Here is his reply:

“That is a pipevine swallowtail. While their range goes through Arizona, they are not commonly found down here in the valley as their host plant, pipevine (Aristolochia) does not handle the dry conditions very well.

They are neat butterflies. Pipevines are quite toxic, and the butterflies use the toxins from the plant to defend themselves from predators. A lot of other swallowtails (spicebush, black, female tiger) mimic pipevine swallowtails to try to trick predators into thinking that they are toxic too. This is why they all tend to look alike.”

I did a little more research and learned that many swallowtail butterflies spend the winter as chrysalises, tucked into crevices in logs, or underneath loose bark on trees.

Like Derek also said: “Keep your eyes peeled! You might see more!”

Butterfly Madness

The desert is waking up.

I’m engrossed watching a roadrunner.
Long tail rises up and down.
It suddenly spins around
and goes off in another direction.

The cottontails are hopping about.
Too often stopping
in the middle of the road.
Hurry bunny rabbit. Hurry.

There is a faint hint
of coolness in the air.
It’s so delightful
on my bare skin.

A crescendo of
chirping and birdsong
envelopes me
as I scan the trees.

I can’t see the birds
but whoa! I come upon
the red bush full of
frantic butterflies.

Their size is arresting.
Their wingbeat is mesmerizing.
Their color is astonishing.
Their dance is magical.