Happy Friday, Butterfly Buddies!!! We hope you’re having a great Friday. This week we decided to travel backwards in time to highlight an early favorite of ours, Parides Swallowtails. The genus Parides belongs to a subgroup of the Swallowtail family, but most of the Parides do not have tails. The Parides group is not very large in the total number of species, so a collector could set a goal of acquiring representatives of all of the species. But many of the Parides species have a lot of subspecies, forms, and variations, bringing the total number of possibilities into the hundreds! The good news for collectors is that many of the species are very reasonable in price. So you could get a pretty good start reasonably enough. There are a few of the species that are rarely available, but with patience you can find them. So let’s find out what makes the Parides group one of our favorites.
Parides butterflies are native to South and Central America, with various species being distributed from Mexico to Argentina. They are medium sized butterflies with typical wingspans in the 2 ½ to 4-inch range. Typically they are rainforest butterflies. They like the sunshine, but they prefer sunny areas within the forest. You will rarely see them in a large clearing or flying across a meadow. Parides are strong flyers, and although they like to flutter around flowers, they can fly very fast when they want to. As a group, the Parides are mostly jet-black with patches of varying shades of red, orange, or white in the hind wings, usually joining to form a hind wing band. Often there are forewing patches of white and green, and some species have yellow or greenish-blue patches. Many of the Parides species can be confused with each other, because the markings have lots of similarities. Also, most of the species are dimorphic or polymorphic (having multiple forms.) Usually the females look different than the males, and sometimes either sex has multiple forms in the same location. This complicates identification, so trying to identify a Parides on the wing is often impossible.
Like some of their other Swallowtail relatives, Parides are distasteful to predators. They acquire this protection from their caterpillar food plants. This protection apparently is very successful, because a few other Swallowtail butterflies mimic the Parides and thereby gain protection by default. There are even mimics in other Lepidoptera families including some day-flying moths!!! All of these mimics use the black/red color combinations in similar patterns.
As with most butterflies, mate selection is mostly visual. But Parides butterflies have developed an additional strategy to help in attracting a mate. Most males have a “pocket” of pheromone producing “furry” scales on their hind wings next to the body. These scent scales help to attract the females, and also help them avoid trying to mate with the wrong species. Other groups of Swallowtails have developed this ability, most notably in Southeast Asian Birdwing butterflies. One more interesting adaptation in coloration is iridescence. A few of the male Parides species have developed hind wing red patches that change color to magenta when viewed at oblique angles, sometimes accompanied by an ultraviolet-blue. These secondary colors seem to “float” above the surface, giving the patches an “opalescence” not seen in other members of the Swallowtail family. When you see it for the first time, it’s truly amazing!!!
We hope you can now appreciate why Parides butterflies are some of our favorites.
Along with today’s edition of Friday Flyers, we’ve included some photos of various Parides species that we have personally encountered in our travels. We also included photographs showing the oblique-angle iridescence. If you have already started collecting Swallowtail butterflies, you might consider adding some Parides to round out your collection. We have a number of Parides butterflies in some of the collage frames in our Wonders Of Nature department, and we can always frame them singly for you if you prefer.
One last note; we’re about 70% completed with archiving all of our previous Friday Flyers editions on our website. Hopefully in about two weeks you’ll be able to refer to all of the past editions complete with all the photos in a stable, permanent, non-shifting non-facebook format. We hope you’ll visit our website and check it out.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.