Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
from the October 23, 2011Newsletter issued from Mayan Beach Garden Inn 20 kms north of Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México
Above you see a Polydamas Swallowtail, BATTUS POLYDAMAS, a swallowtail without a tail like a swallow's. Volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario figured it out. I've been trying to photograph this species for the last six months but this is one of those butterflies that keeps moving. Then Wednesday this one turned up with his proboscis probing sand just a couple of feet from the water, maybe sopping up salt.
Polydamas Swallowtails are widely distributed from southern Texas and Florida south to Argentina, plus sometimes they stray outside their usual distribution area. In the US they've been seen as far north as Kentucky and Missouri.
Polydamas caterpillars are listed as eating leaves of pipevines, which are poisonous vines in the genus Aristolochia. Butterflies whose caterpillars eat pipevines are thought to be bitter to potential predators, and poisonous themselves. I've not seen pipevines growing here. However, adult Polydamases take nectar from lantanas, and we've seen that here lots of lantanas (the "Wild Sages") are flowering right now.
By the way, that nice name Polydamas means "trojan warrior." The name originated as a Greek name given to boys.