Tiger swallowtail

Male tiger swallowtail on common milkweed

 

Tiger swallowtail on zinnia

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.

Female tiger swallowtail dark variety

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.

Spicebush swallowtail. Author: Daniel Spurgeon. Creative Commons

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

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Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors

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One Response to “Tiger swallowtail”

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Butterfly Gardening Says:

    […] Tiger Swallowtail “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.” by Beatriz Moisset […]

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