WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Great Day for "Hands Across the Brandywine", but NO Zebra Swallowtails!

I can recall some rainy "Hands Across the Brandywine" days, but Tuesday was NOT one of them!

As usual, students from Warner and Highland elementary schools turned-out for the 17th annual event, which showcases the beauty of the Brandywine and promotes enviornmental awareness.

This year, organizers paid special attention to butterflies. Zebra Swallowtail butterflies - which have the longest tails of any Swallowtails north of Mexico (although the third brood in the fall has the longest!) - represented the holy grail this year.

A small stand of Pawpaw - a shrub which produces a custard-like fruit - can be found along the Brandywine; it's the caterpillar food plant to the Zebra Swallowtail. And some careful observers have seen a few Zebra Swallowtails in the past in that area.

But, I'm told they didn't have any luck finding Zebras. Too bad. With the long tails, the zebra-like stripes, and in particular a vivid red--maroon stripe on the outside wings, you can't easily confuse these swallowtails with any other!

The kids DID see a bright yellow Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Delaware's official state butterfly, and one of the two or three largest butterflies in the eastern United States.

By the way, anyone who really wants to see the Zebra Swallowtail doesn't have to drive THAT far. Elk Neck State Park, south of Northeast, Maryland (Cecil County) is one of the epicenters for Zebra Swallowtails in the United States. I saw a couple dozen at Elk Neck just this past weekend, even with mostly cloudy skies!

Posted at 7:29pm on May 20, 2009 by Allan Loudell

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