The Swallowtail and the Monarch are two of the most recognized butterflies. You can identify it (usually) by its large size and bright yellow color with black tiger stripes.
Male tiger swallowtails have a few orange and blue spots near the tail. Females have both a light and dark form.
Tiger Swallowtails are commonly found in deciduous woodlands and along their borders, including parks and neighborhoods, where they feed on the nectar of both wild and garden flowers from Spring through Fall.
Both male and females have black stripes on their yellow forewings, but the female differs in the amount of blue on her hind-wings.
Indeed, the female comes in two color schemes, or morphs; dark and light. The darker female is almost completely black or dark gray with yellow spots on the rear of her fore-wings and predominantly blue hind-wings.
She is often confused with the Spicebush Swallowtail, but orange spots on the underside of her hind-wings and a black band dividing the blue, also on the hind-wings, sets the Tiger apart. The lighter schemed female looks much like the male but with more blue on the hind-wings.
Females lay their eggs singly on the leaves of woody plants, mainly tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) and wild black cherry (Prunus serotina).
The caterpillar emerges wearing a dark brown and white camouflage but soon becomes bright green with black stripes, a swollen thorax and faint blue dots on its abdominal segments.
It also has black-and-yellow false eyespots to ward off curious predators, and the caterpillar will rear up and extend two red horns from its osmeterium if pestered, resembling a Hognose snake. The display is accompanied by the secretion of a foul-smelling odor.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are diurnal, and are usually solitary. Adults are known to fly high above the ground, usually seen above the tree canopy. Males seek females by patrolling habitats containing the larval host plants. During courtship, the male and female fly about each other prior to landing and mating. The male releases perfume-like pheromones during courtship to entice the female into mating.
Adults use a wide range of food sources, most preferring to nectar on sturdy plants with red or pink flowers. Many members of the families Dogbane, Aster, and Legume are used as common nectar sources. Males participate in a behavior called puddling, in which they congregate on mud, damp gravel, or puddles. They extract sodium ions and amino acids from these sources which aid in reproduction. Males that puddle are typically fresh, and puddle only for their first couple of days. Females will occasionally puddle, but do not form congregations. Adults have also been seen feeding on dung, carrion and urine.
To attract Swallowtail butterflies to your yard, below please find a list of host plants to attract them.
Eastern Black Swallowtail
- Carrot family especially Golden Alexanders
- Apple family
- Ash family especially white, green, mountain,
- Basswood family
- Bay family especially Sweet,
- Birch family
- Cherry family especially Wild, Black, Choke,
- Lilac family
- Magnolia family – NOT Magnolia Vine –
- Plum family
- Poplar family expecially Yellow
- Rose family
- Sassafras family
- Sycamore family
- Tulip family
- Willow family
- *Because of the black and yellow stripes this butterfly is named ‘Tiger’.
- *The darker Tiger Butterflies are believed to mimic the poisonous ‘Pipevine’ Swallowtail.
- Attached is a video from YouTube showing the butterflies metamorphasis. It is truly fascinating. Enjoy!