Giant swallowtails are also common in Midwestern states like Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, where the larvae feed on prickly ash.
Just like any other insect, giant swallowtails have growing cycles, Reynolds said. He said some years are especially good for the species if all conditions — good weather, an abundant supply of food and few predators — are favorable.
“If all of those factors are just perfect, you could have a big hatch like this,” he said.
Reynolds said anyone who drives around the area over the next few days might spot a similar group of giant swallowtails. He noted that the Pontotoc Ridge Preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy, so visitors need to get permission before entering the property.
Reynolds said butterfly enthusiasts may be in luck if they look for sunny spots along gravel roads that cross wooded areas and are lined with thistles.
“If they drive slowly enough and then once they see a patch of blooming thistle along the side of the road, they can just pull over, get out and explore that patch of thistle,” he said.
Butterflies of the World is a Lexington-based nonprofit that educates people about butterfly habitats and conservation. The organization also hosts programs designed to encourage people to appreciate butterflies.