Tiger Swallowtail

by Daisy

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The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the state butterfly of many states, especially in the southeastern US.

They seem abundant this year.

Or maybe I’ve been seeing the same pair over and over again. Either way, they’re welcome here.

They float high over the trees, swoop through our garden, and they’re off again. They seem more shy than the Black Swallowtail, so I felt lucky to catch this one preoccupied with a zinnia to take these shots.

They lay their eggs on members of the magnolia and rose families.  To protect their larvae from predators, the larvae look a bit like bird droppings, and, like the Black Swallowtail, they sport osmeteria, which make them appear snake-y and emit a smelly chemical.  Another fascinating defense for the females, in particular: they can be black like the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, in areas where the Pipevine Swallowtail is common.


Adults feed on the nectar of the Aster family,  like our zinnias here, as well as sunflowers, daisies, and marigolds.  They also feed on the flowers of the legume and the dogbane families.

I’m on the lookout for their larvae, but since they are well-camouflaged compared to the striped, colorful Black Swallowtail, I may never see them.

Do you have a favorite butterfly?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri Pine August 12, 2013 at 5:24 am

I grow maypop just for the butterflies. Among others, there’s the zebra heliconian (black with streaks of vivid yellow), a soft-gray one with a row of orange flecks on each wing, the orange gulf fritilary, and something gorgeous that I once heard called a “cups of gold” butterfly.

Portia McCracken August 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

I believe the larve look like bird droppings only in their early stages. After that, they should be easier to spot.

Here’s some good information: http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/eastern_tiger_swallowtail.htm

And here are some terrific amateur photos:

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