Well, I followed dear Paul’s suggestion (see his comment on my June 28 post) about getting in touch with a butterfly expert to let the world know about my, er, most exceptional sighting. Yesterday I wrote a message to a U.S. university professor…no names, of course…who was kind enough to inform me that my butterfly was “probably” (now I can safely say: “undoubtedly”!) NOT the zebra swallowtail butterfly but rather a European butterfly known as the “scarce swallowtail butterfly,” also called the “sail swallowtail” or “pear-tree swallowtail.” The expert professor, to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude, sent me the following link: http://tinyurl.com/mecbbg Yes, that is my butterfly, no question.
Latin name: Iphiclides podalirius. In fact, in Italian this butterfly is familiarly named podalirio, see: http://tinyurl.com/lnkxpt (incidentally, I was much amused that in French my butterfly is called “flambé“!).
How odd, though. If this butterfly species, as we can read in the above-mentioned Wikipedia article, is “widespread throughout Europe,” then why on earth was it named “scarce”??? The, uhmmm, common scarce butterfly…hehe. Oh okay, I confess that I did a bit of research…and the reason it is known as “scarce” is because it is indeed a rarity in the UK. Not in the rest of Europe, though…
Well, together with the monarch butterfly, which I was privileged to see many times in my sister’s back yard in Massachusetts, my scarce-common swallowtail is the most gorgeous insect I have ever set my eyes on. (And no, I didn’t see my butterflying friend in my yard yesterday, but I am sure she has gone on to better and safer eating grounds…)
Common or scarce…. There is nothing like nature for a moment of awe!
The Swallowtail is indeed a scarce butterfly in the UK and it is only found in the Norfolk Broads area. However, this is not the same butterfly as the one in your garden – which is why I didn’t recognise it.
“Our” swallowtail is Papilio machaon – see: