Mixed-up Butterfly

Anise Swallowtail (IPapilio zelicaon)

Recently I posted an item about “Mixed-up Flowers” (Dec. 20 2021) — blooms that normally show in spring or summer, but somehow got fooled by the October deluge and the warm days following. There I opined that pollinator insects probably had a more rigid calendar and wouldn’t be tricked into emerging in the dead of winter. Now photographer Jim Kusz, whose work has appeared here frequently, proves me wrong. In the second half of December he photographed this Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) on the edge of the park. These beautiful insects normally spend the winter in the chrysalid stage and don’t emerge as butterflies in our climate until sometime between February and May, and typically don’t go flying until June or July. They are sometimes seen in winter in Orange County, where the climate is warmer. This individual is seriously out of season. If it’s a female, it will lay eggs, but it better hurry. The lifespan of an adult is a week or two in a favorable climate. Carpe diem.

[Updated Dec. 25: This was originally posted as a Tiger Swallowtail. Photographer Jim Kusz then revised his identification. Thanks also to Jutta Burger for her comment along the same lines.Tiger and Anise frequently get confused.)

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