Those of us who live in northern New England are enjoying being able to spot the largest butterfly in North America living among us. With a 5 ½” – 7 ½” wingspread, the Giant Swallowtail’s (Papilio cresphontes) common name is very apt. This butterfly has experienced dramatic range expansion in the last decade or so, as it was formerly found only as far north as the mid-Atlantic. Now it is a regular New England inhabitant, primarily due to increasingly warm temperatures, and a common visitor to flower gardens at this time of year.
The larval stage of the Giant Swallowtail is as impressive, or more so, as the adult butterfly. Its defense mechanisms include resemblance to a bird dropping and a forked appendage that emits toxic chemicals (see https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/giant-swallowtail-caterpillar-defenses/).
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It is fairly well known that the Moose population in the Northeast (and elsewhere) has plummeted — New Hampshire has lost more than 40% of their Moose in the last decade, and this trend is occurring throughout northern New England. Global warming is at the heart of this decline. Warm winters have allowed the tick population to soar, and blood loss due to ticks has weakened Moose, making them susceptible to anemia and unable to fight off disease. The negative effect of warmer temperatures doesn’t stop there. Summer heat stress promotes weight loss, a fall in pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to disease. Excessive warm weather drives Moose to seek shelter, rather than forage for much-needed food. This phenomenon has been described by Moose biologists as “one of the most precipitous non-hunting declines of a major species in the modern era.”
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