The tiger swallowtail is a very impressive creature with its large size, bright colors and bold pattern. It belongs to a group of butterflies called swallowtails in reference to the two projections, “tails” of their hind wings. It is thought that these projections may confuse predators making them think that the tails are actually antennae. When a bird goes for the head it may get a piece of wing instead, allowing the butterfly to escape without suffering a lethal injury.
The name refers to its yellow and black stripes, reminiscent of a tiger’s stripes. One peculiarity of this species of butterflies is that some females instead of being yellow with black stripes are bluish black with white spots.
These females look very much like another fairly common butterfly, the spicebush swallowtail. The former lacks the orange spots of the latter on the underside of the wings; this makes it possible to tell them apart. Spicebush swallowtails taste bad to predators. It is possible that dark female tiger swallowtails masquerade as members of the other species to lead predators to believe that they are bad tasting too.
Habitat. Around woodland edges, near streams, swamps
Season. It starts flying as early as March and lasts until October, but mostly it flies between June and September
Flowers. Milkweeds, sedum or stone crop, many flowers of the aster family, especially larger ones like zinnias