Florida Butterflies~Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

2 Jan

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix


Papilio glaucus, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, is a species of swallowtail butterfly native to eastern North America. It has derived its name “Eastern,” because it is abundantly found in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, starting from Ontario south to the Gulf coast and northern part of Mexico.


The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail lives in deciduous woods all along the streams, rivers, swamps, edges of forest, river valleys, parks and suburbs. The term “Tiger,” is used due to its distinctive tiger like markings, particularly found on the males.  The word “Swallowtail”, is because of their long “tail” on their hind wings which is similar to the swallows.


Males are yellowish or yellow-orange in color with black tiger stripes. Their wings are bounded in black with yellowish spots and there are black tiger stripes running around the top of their wings.


 The color of the female varies from yellow to bluish-black. The hind wing of females has a row of prominent blue stripes and a sparkling blue wash over parts of the inner hind wing. The upper side hind wing has a distinct orange minor spot.


The brown caterpillar resembles bird droppings,  while eyespots on green caterpillar look like eyes of a snake. Both morphological features repel predators.

The caterpillars of this butterfly normally place themselves in the heart of the leaves and face upwards.


The chrystalis stage

The wingspan is around two and a half to four and a half inches. The females are slightly larger than males.


They are powerful and swift fliers and are active only during the day. They spread their wings while resting. They continue to flap their wings while feeding on nectar.


Eastern tiger swallowtails usually avoid company, however, they are a mud puddler. They huddle near each other around puddles and muddy rocks. This helps them take out necessary amino acids as well as sodium ions favorable for reproduction.


This butterfly has several bird predators. Sharp skinned hawk, Great crested flycatcher, Bald faced hornet, Red winged blackbird, Downy woodpecker, White breasted nuthatch, Fiery searcher, Eastern gray squirrel, Chinese mantid, Virginia opossum, Barred owl, Raccoon, Green darner, Common crow and Belted kingfisher are its most common predators. Sometimes they can fly away quickly from their predators. Caterpillars consume oils from the host plants of the carrot family. The stinking taste of the chemical in their bodies repulses birds and other predators.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail larvae eats the leaves of a variety of wooded plants which serve as host plants.  Sweetbay, mountain ash, basswood, tulip tree.  Other plants include Yellow poplar, American hornbeam, Black willow, American elm, Spicebrush, Red maple and Sassafras.

The adults butterflies eat the nectar of flowers from a variety of plants. Tiger swallowtail visits oregano, purple coneflowers, zinnias and butterfly bush to extract nectar from the flowers. It occasionally consumes juice extracted from the overripe fruit.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail have three flights from the months of February to November in deep South and two flights from the months of May to September in north.
They brood twice, especially those from the northern part while butterflies from the southern area brood thrice. Males watch out for females who are receptive. They patrol at tree top points and swoop at lower levels to stop in front of females and offer to mate. During courtship the male and female flap around each other before landing and mating. If they feel they are under danger during mating then the female carries the male away. Male swallowtails have a scent like pheromone which is used in courtship.

Hibernation occurs in the pupa stage in those places with cold winter months. Butterflies stop growing once they emerge. The lifespan of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly stretches from spring through fall and live for about a month.

This butterfly’s presence in the garden is magical with it’s large size, beautiful coloring and the ability to approach it while feeding.
Next week we will explore another swallowtail butterfly very similar to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The Giant Swallowtail.






I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.

2 Responses to “Florida Butterflies~Eastern Tiger Swallowtail”

  1. divoran09 January 2, 2018 at 5:54 pm #

    We enjoy your butterfly posts so much. Are you having a happy New Year so far? We are.



  2. Onisha Ellis January 2, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

    I love the pictures and information!


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