Natural Sightings #606 - Western Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush.jpg

A Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly nectar-feeds on a Butterfly Bush.

Jessica Martin took this photo at her house in Bear Valley Springs of a Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly nectar-feeding on a Butterfly Bush.

Western Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio rutulus) are the largest common butterflies you'll encounter in the Tehachapi Mountains. There are a couple of other species of swallowtail butterflies found here, but the Western Tiger Swallowtail is by far the most numerous.

Tiger Swallowtails are active butterflies with wingspans of three or four inches. Males will often patrol a territory in a canyon or garden, looking for receptive females.

These large butterflies frequently visit yards and gardens as they look for nectar plants. They can often be seen sailing through Phil Marx Central Park in Downtown Tehachapi, even on days when the park has lots of visitors.

Female Tiger Swallowtails lay their eggs on several different tree species including cottonwoods, poplars and willows, so there are lots of potential larval host trees for them in the Tehachapi area.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) is an excellent late summer and early autumn nectar source for butterflies. Some people discourage planting it, because it is not native to North America and can become invasive in some areas, but it seldom spreads in the Tehachapi Mountains. Also many of the Butterfly Bush cultivars being sold now have low fertility or are infertile, so they will not self-propagate.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for butterfly is ayaataniizi, pronounced eye-yah-tah-NEE-zee.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.

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