August 22, 2009

Local critters

Two visitors posed for pictures this week.

Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies which form the family Papilionidae. There are at least 550 species. The Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is a large (12 cm wingspan) swallowtail butterfly. There are two morphs of adult females, a yellow and a dark one. The dark form is more common in the Southern portions of the range, especially in areas also inhabited by the poisonous Pipevine swallowtail, which it seems to mimic. It is the state butterfly of Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina and Delaware.

The word mantis is Greek for "prophet" or "fortune teller". The closest relatives of mantises are the orders Isoptera (termites) and Blattodea (cockroaches), and these three groups together are sometimes ranked as an order rather than a superorder. The articulation of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement in some species, allowing for a great range of vision (their compound eyes have a large binocular field of vision) without having to move the remainder of the body.

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