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Canadian Tiger Swallowtails Puddling

swallowtails puddling 515Once in a while, if you are traveling on dirt roads, you may come across a cluster of butterflies in the road, such as the pictured Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, that are so engaged in what they are doing that you can approach them fairly closely.  The butterflies, predominantly males, have gathered to obtain salts and minerals that have leached from the soil into standing puddles and moist dirt. The act of acquiring nutrients in this manner is referred to as “puddling.”

Because butterflies do not have chewing mouthparts as adults, they must drink their meals. While nectar is their main source of nutrition, males often supplement their diet with these minerals. The sodium uptake aids in reproductive success, with the precious nutrients often transferred from the male to the female during mating. This extra nutrition helps ensure that the eggs survive.

Canadian and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are very similar, and their ranges overlap. To determine which you have seen, look at the underside of the butterfly’s forewing and see if the yellow band along the margin is solid (Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio canadensis), or if it is broken up into spots (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus).

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3 responses

  1. Peggy Lareau

    Now I have verification for my “minerals” guess– I have often seen butterflies persistently settling on the “urinating” site in my horse’s paddock. I don’t recall which species but I will observe carefully next time.

    May 31, 2016 at 6:36 am

    • Hi Peggy,
      I almost mentioned the fact that that is one way to attract them – but didn’t now how receptive readers would be to roadside squatting!

      May 31, 2016 at 8:35 am

  2. Pingback: When butterflies die | look around!

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