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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Copyright by: Beryn Harty
Large butterfly with a wingspan up to 6-1/2 inches. The male is yellow, with four dark stripes on the forewing, black wing margins with a row of yellow spots, and a single tail on the hindwing. There are two female forms: one is yellow like the male; the other is black with faint dark stripes. Both have powder-blue scaling on the border of the hindwing and two tails on the hindwing; the black form has a wavy black band dividing the powder-blue areas. The caterpillar is green, with a pale brown head, rows of small blue spots and a yellow-ringed black eyespot with a blue center on each side of the enlarged thorax. Young caterpillars are dark brown with a white midsection; they resemble bird droppings. The pupa is mottled grayish-brown or tan with a dark brown or black stripe on the side.
Eastern North America, west to Colorado and Texas.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common in North and Central Florida; local in South Florida. Adults and caterpillars present February-November.
Swamps, flatwoods, hammocks, forest edges and urban areas.
Two broods per year in northern part of range; three or more in Florida. The green, spherical eggs are laid singly on the leaves of host plants, usually on the upper side near the tip. They later turn greenish-yellow.
Adults have a high, gliding flight; they typically feed with their wings spread out. Caterpillars rest on silk mats on curled leaves. Pupae move down the trees in fall and overwinter close to the ground.
Caterpillars feed on the leaves of host plants. Larval host plants include the native black cherry (Prunus serotina), Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), sweet-bay (Magnolia virginia), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Sweet-bay is the larval host plant in most of Florida. Nectar plants include the native black cherry, joepyeweeds (Eupatorium spp.) and milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) and the nonnative lilac (Syringa vulgaris).