The zebra I am referring to are not the four-legged animals that live on the African plains. The zebras I am talking about has six legs and can fly–the zebra swallowtail butterfly.
You would be hard pressed to mistake this butterfly with any other that inhabits the Peach State. The zebra swallowtail’s wings displays a pattern of alternating distinctive black and white stripes.
The zebras I see at this time of the year are, on the average, smaller and have shorter tails than those I spot later in the year.
The zebra swallowtail can be seen throughout the state. Depending on the weather, it can be seen somewhere in the Georgia from late February to early November. I especially enjoy watching them in the springtime flying through leafless hardwood forests seeking pawpaws. The pawpaw is the host plant for this beautiful butterfly. Once a female find a pawpaw she will lay a single egg on the plant before moving on looking for another pawpaw.
I personally see more zebra swallowtails in early spring than at any other time of the year. At that time of the year, few other butterflies are on the wing. However, for some reason, over the past few years I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen this butterfly during an entire calendar year.
Zebra swallowtails will nectar on a variety of flowers; however, they tend to shy away from tubular flowers such as coral honeysuckle. This is because they have a short proboscis and cannot reach nectar at the far end of a long, trumpet-shaped bloom. In addition, they favor white flowers above all others.
If you have not seen a zebra swallowtail in your yard, it could very likely be because no pawpaws are growing nearby. If that is the case, you can easily remedy the situation by planting a few native pawpaws. If you do, with a little luck, zebras will indeed be seen flying about your backyard.