Post last updated: August 3rd, 2020

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (male) on Powder Puff Bush
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (male) on Powder Puff Bush
This looks like a painting but I promise it’s a real photo.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is my favorite of the butterflies. The first time I saw it with the black tiger stripes going down the length of the yellow wing, I thought of piano keys. It ranges from Alaska and Canada to the southern United States, east of the Rocky Mountains. In Florida (except the Florida Keys), it can be seen between February and November.



Open woodland where deciduous woods are present, forest edges, pastures (the Southern Rural Route is surrounded by all three) and wooded swamps, streams and rivers.



Males are always yellow with black tiger stripes and a black border around the edges of the wings. They do not have any blue coloring or orange spots (called scales) on their hind wings. Females can be yellow or all black. The females have more blue on the hindwing, whether yellow or black. It is believed the tiger striping on females distracts predators and the black coloring imitates the pipevine swallowtail which feeds on pipevines that are toxic to other animals. Wing span is generally 3.5 to 5.5 inches in size.


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) on Purple Coneflower
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) on Purple Coneflower


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) with wings open
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) with wings open


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) on white penta. Photo by Cee's husband.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) on white penta.
Photo by Cee’s husband.


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) with wings closed
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female) with wings closed


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (male) on Powder Puff Bush-1206
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (male) on Powder Puff Bush



Females lay a single, large green egg on plants in the magnolia and rose families.

This is another caterpillar that looks like bird droppings when first hatched. The caterpillar feeds on leaves of various woody plants (see below). At maturity, the caterpillar becomes green with a head that is larger than his body. The head also has two black false eye spots. The eye spots are a type of deceptive coloration that helps protect the caterpillar from predators. Predators see the eye spots and assume the caterpillar is a large animal.

The chrysalis may be green or brown and takes much longer to hatch than other butterflies.

The adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly lives for about a month from spring through fall.  During their lifespan, they will reproduce two or three times.



Host plants — leaves of trees and shrubs such as Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Ash (Fraxinus spp.), Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana), Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Cottonwood (Populus deltoids).

Nectar plants — Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia), Milkweed (Asclepias), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Thistles (Asteraceae).


  1. It takes a village to raise butterflies. I spent the past three years working to increase the number of Western Tiger Swallowtails in my garden only to come to the realization that if my neighbors and friends apply pesticides by the bucket then it is hard to keep such fragile creatures alive…The good news is that with persistence progress is possible. Your photos are absolutely amazing.

    1. Charlie – I think people are unintentionally ignorant. It is up to us, as individuals, to do what we can to educate those around us about the dangers of pesticides. Word is getting out on pesticides vs. bees and without the bees we won’t eat. I am fortunate in that I don’t live in a subdivision BUT my own father is a fan of Roundup. I am making comments here and there, trying not to alienate him, as I work to re-educate him. Thanks for your compliment on my photos.

  2. Great photos!

    I try to monitor the Round up use around here.

    The wild Pipevine that butterflies have available here is the wild one with tiny white flowers not worth trying to see. It’s a fairly well behaved vine, not twining, not suckering. I’m always happy to see it covering Catbrier vines in an out-of-the-way location. I was reading last week about one non-native Pipevine with giant beautiful flowers that is toxic to butterflies. It’s enough to make my head bizzy.

    1. I had to go to the web IMMEDIATELY to find the toxic Pipevine plant. Thankfully, it is not the one for which I have seeds. Matter of fact, it is incredibly UGLY. Looks like somebody’s internal organs hanging on a vine. Lookee here: http://www.monarchbutterflygarden.net/aristolochia-gigantea-kills-pipevine-swallowtails/
      Am not familiar with catbrier vines. Maybe it doesn’t grow here. As for monitoring the Roundup, you must have influence. I don’t. I merely try to talk about the horrors of it. Poppie knows how hard I’m working to encourage butterflies but he has bad knees, he’ll soon be 84 and I just can’t say too much about his method of weeding. Heaven knows, I can’t weed this place by myself.

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