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Why Did the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Become South Carolina's State Butterfly?

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State legislatures frequently pass laws that raise their share of controversy, depending on the issue and passion of the populace. Some legislation isn't particularly controversial, but honors some important aspect of state life. In 1994, the General Assembly of South Carolina proclaimed the eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, as the state's official butterfly in legislation known as Act 319.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

One reason the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly earned Palmetto state recognition is because of its sheer beauty. Butterflies sport four wings, and the swallowtail earned its name because its long rear wings look like swallow tail feathers. The front wings boast stripes -- hence the tiger part of the name. While both sexes have black stripes, males are yellow while females are either gray or yellow. Some males have bright patches of other shades on their wings, but all females have blue and orange markings on the bottom edge of the rear wings.

Butterfly History

It's likely the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly made its home in the area that later became South Carolina long before European settlers came to the region in the late 17th century. However, definite documentation of the butterfly's presence in the state can be dated back to 1725, when British artist Mark Catesby painted a specimen on a native shrub, according to Act 319.

Location, Location, Location

The Garden Club of South Carolina supported giving the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly official status because it is seen throughout the state in various environments. These include not just rural, suburban and urban areas, but varying habitats. You might spot this butterfly along rivers and streams, deciduous woods or wooded swamps. This butterfly helps pollinate gardens and orchards throughout South Carolina.

Other Official South Carolina Animals

South Carolina boasts quite a few official creatures. These include the spotted salamander as state amphibian; the Carolina wren as the state bird; the white-tailed deer as the state animal; the striped bass as the state fish; the wood duck as the state duck; the wild turkey as the state game bird; the Carolina mantid as the state insect; the bottlenose dolphin as state marine mammal; the loggerhead turtle as the state reptile; the Carolina wolf spider as state spider and the northern right whale as the state migratory marine mammal. Domestic animals also receive recognition. The Boykin spaniel is the official state dog, the marsh tacky is the state heritage horse and the mule is the state heritage work animal.