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Zoom Butterflies
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
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tiger swallowtail
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
The Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucas) is a strong flier with distinctive yellow and black striped markings on its wings and body (some females are brown or black, mimicking the poisonous pipevine swallowtail). This relatively common butterfly has a wingspan of 3.5-6.5 inches (9-16.5 cm). Southern subspecies are larger than the northern ones.

These butterflies are called swallowtails because they have long "tails" on their hindwings which look a bit like the long, pointed tails of swallows (a type of bird).

LIFE-CYCLE

tiger swallowtail life cycle


DESCRIPTION AT EACH STAGE OF THE LIFE-CYCLE
Butterflies and moths undergo complete metamorphosis in which they go through four different life stages. It takes about a month for the egg to mature into an adult.
tiger swallowtail egg Egg: A butterfly starts its life as an egg. The female Tiger Swallowtail butterfly lays its spherical, yellow-green eggs on the leaf high in a tulip tree, sweet bay, wild black cherry, ash, lilac, aspen=, birch, or choke cherry. When the egg hatches, its meals (the leaves of one of these plant) are easily available.
tiger swallowtail larva Caterpillar: The larva (caterpillar) hatches from an egg and eats the egg shell. Then it eats leaves (almost constantly). The newly-hatched larva is brown and white, and looks like bird droppings, but it turns green later. The caterpillar molts (loses its old skin) many times as it grows. The caterpillar is plump, smooth, and green with large yellow eyespots" that have black "pupils." There is a yellow and black stripe where its "neck" should be. The larva lives in a nest that it makes high in the trees by folding a leaf over and securing it with silk. It grows to be up to about 2 inches (5 cm) long. Just before pupating, it sometimes turns brown.
tiger swallowtail pupa Pupa: It turns into a pupa (chrysalis); this is a resting stage. As the body transforms into a butterfly, it neither eats nor drinks.
tiger swallowtail male
Male
tiger swallowtail female
Some females are dark, mimicking the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail
Adult: A beautiful, flying adult emerges. There is no growth during this stage, but the butterfly will sip nectar. This adult will continue the cycle by reproducing. Females produce two broods in the north, three in the south.

Wings have distinctive yellow and black stripes. Some females (especially in the south) are much darker, mimicking the poisonous Pipevine butterfly.


DIET
tiger swallowtail larvaCaterpillar: The caterpillar's first meal is its own eggshell. After that, the caterpillars eat the tulip tree (Liriodendron), sweet bay, wild black cherry (Prunus), ash (Fraxinus), wild poplar (Populus), Basswood (Tilia), birch (Betula), lilac, aspens, or choke cherry.

Butterfly headButterfly: Butterflies can only sip liquid food using a tube-like proboscis, which is a long, flexible "tongue." This proboscis uncoils to sip food, and coils up again into a spiral when not in use.

Tiger Swallowtails drink sweet flower nectar, especially nectar from the pink flowers of the shrub abelia.

PROTECTION FROM PREDATORS
tiger swallowtail larvaCaterpillar: The caterpillar is camouflaged to look like bird droppings when it is very young. Later, it develops distinctive eyespots, which make it look like a snake, scaring off some predators.

tiger swallowtail female
Butterfly: The Tiger Swallowtail butterfly is not a poisonous butterfly, but many females (especially southern subspecies) are much darker, mimicking the poisonous Pipevine butterfly (Battus philenor). Animals that eat it the poisonous Pipevine butterfly get very sick and vomit (but generally do not die). These animals remember that this brightly-colored butterfly made them very sick and will avoid all butterflies with similar markings (including the Tiger Swallowtail) in the future.

HABITAT AND RANGE
The Tiger Swallowtail butterfly frequents woodlands (including temperate deciduous forests) and grasslands, but is also found in a variety of environments, including cities.

It is found throughout the Eastern USA and Canada.

LIFE SPAN
It takes about a month for the adult to develop (from egg to pupa to adult).

CLASSIFICATION
tiger swallowtail Order: Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)
Family: Papilionidae (apollos, swallowtails, and birdwings)
Genus: Papilio (true swallowtails)
Species: glaucas
Subspecies:



Information Sheets About Butterflies (and Moths)

Just click on an animal's name to go to that information sheet. If the butterfly (or moth) you're interested in isn't here, check the Butterfly Dictionary.

Monarch Butterfly

Queen Alexandra's Birdwing Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly


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