Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio glaucus

Summary 5

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is a species of swallowtail butterfly native to North America. It is one of the most familiar butterflies in the eastern United States, where it is common in many different habitats. It flies from spring to fall, during which it produces two to three broods. Adults feed on the nectar of many species of flowers, mostly from those of the Apocynaceae, Asteraceae, and Fabaceae families. P. glaucus has a wingspan...

Description 6

The wingspan ranges from 7.9 to 14 cm (3.1 to 5.5 in) with females being the larger sex. Southern individuals are larger than northern ones. Males are yellow with four black "tiger stripes" on each fore wing. The outer edge of the fore wing is black with a row of yellow spots. The veins are marked with black. The postmedian area of the hind wing is black with yellow spots along the margin. The inner margin of the hind wing has small red and blue spots. The ventral fore wing margin has a yellow bar that is broken into spots. This broken bar is present in both sexes, and is used to distinguish P. glaucus from its close relatives.

Females are dimorphic. The yellow morph differs from the male in having a blue postmedian area on the dorsal hind wing. In the dark morph, the areas that are normally yellow are replaced with dark gray or black. The bluish postmedian area on the ventral hind wing has one row of orange spots. A shadow of the "tiger stripes" can be seen on the underside of some dark females.

P. glaucus is one of a few species of papilionids known to produce gynandromorphs. Most bilateral gynandromorphs are hybrids of P. glaucus and P. canadensis that are found along hybrid zones. Color mosaics are found in the central part of the species range.

Larva Description 5

The first three instars are brown. A large white spot, known as a saddle, is found on the abdomen. After molting to the fourth instar, the caterpillar becomes green. The swollen thorax has two black, yellow, and blue eyespots. These eyespots are much smaller than those of the similar-looking Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar. A yellow and black transverse stripe is present between the first and second abdominal segments. It is concealed between the folds of the segments when the caterpillar is at rest. The abdomen is spotted transversely with light blue. Before pupating, the caterpillar will turn dark brown. It will reach a length of 5.5 centimetres (2.2 in).

Larval host plants 5

The caterpillar feeds on host plants of many different families. Common host plants used are those of the Magnoliaceae and Rosaceae families, with species including tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and wild black cherry (Prunus serotina). It also feeds on other members of the family Rosaceae, as well as members from the families Lauraceae, Oleaceae, Rutaceae, and Tilioideae. Aspens (Populus sect. Populus), birches (Betula), and willows (Salix) have been recorded in older literature as host plants, but these are used by P. canadensis.

GTM Occurrence 7

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is considered a rare species at the GTM. This species has only been sighted in the forest transects. Two specimens were observed on April 18, 2011 on the Marsh Pond Overlook (Transect B, 1 specimen) and along the Glasswort Loop (Transect C, 1 specimen). A single specimen was observed on April 27, 2009 along the Red Bay Walk (Transect D). There have been 3 specimens observed as of December 28, 2015.

Distribution 5

Papilio glaucus is found in the eastern United States from southern Vermont to Florida west to eastern Texas and the Great Plains. It is common throughout its range, although is rarer in southern Florida and absent from the Florida Keys.

Habitat 6

Papilio glaucus can be found almost anywhere deciduous forests occur. Common habitats include woodlands, fields, rivers, creeks, roadsides, and gardens. It will stray into urban parks and city yards. Because it has adapted to many different habitats and host plants, P. glaucus is a generalist, and is not considered threatened.

Nature serve conservation status 8

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Ranges over most of the eastern United States and considered common and secure in most states. Very adaptable species.

Environmental Specificity: Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common.

Comments: Can breed successfully in almost any habitat with foodplants except probably generally not manicured lawns which lack safe pupation sites. Most abundant in hardwood froests and mixed swamps.

Other Considerations: this species should be favorably impacted by global warming and should soon spread northward.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Ken Slade, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://www.flickr.com/photos/10789832@N00/3283987246
  2. (c) John Flannery, some rights reserved (CC BY-ND), https://www.flickr.com/photos/drphotomoto/17029820394/
  3. (c) TexasEagle, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), https://www.flickr.com/photos/texaseagle/8944172324/
  4. (c) John Flannery, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), https://www.flickr.com/photos/drphotomoto/3583002302/
  5. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_glaucus
  6. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_glaucus
  7. (c) GTMResearchReserve, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
  8. (c) NatureServe, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://eol.org/data_objects/28748631

More Info

iNat Map

Category name rare
Member of the iNaturalist Network   |   Powered by iNaturalist open source software