Tiger Swallowtail

One year when we attended the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, it was impossible to pass an entire hour without seeing a Tiger Swallowtail.

Tiger Swallowtail

I’ve been seeing them around here for a couple of weeks now, so I anticipate there will be lots at Allegany State Park where the pilgrimage is held every year on the weekend after Memorial Day.  Since the naturalists are expected to know everything about everything (hahaha) I thought I better read up on this beautiful species.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

The females aren’t always yellow!  They can arrive in a couple of different color morphs.  The picture at right is from Wikipedia and shows several color variations.

Wikipedia also suggests that the dark morph protects the female from predation because it resembles the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, which probably doesn’t do it much good up here in the northeast.  The Pipevine is a southern species!

Speaking of protection from predation, the early instars of the caterpillar look like bird poop.  Who would want to eat that??

This photo by Todd Stout can be found over at the amazing website devoted to butterflies and moths of North America. Click the photo to go see!

Later instars get all green and bulky and have spots that resemble eyes. The last instar just before pupation is brown. Check out this photo by Tom LeBlanc:

Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar – late instar – by Tom LeBlanc

The caterpillars eat tree leaves from several species of trees including black cherry and willow among others. Adults sip nectar from flowers. There will be two broods of these lovelies up here in the north, three down south. The chrysalis is the part that overwinters.

Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) butterfly pupa

Tiger Swallowtail chrysalis – photo by Dean Morley

I’m sure I’ll have no trouble spotting adults at the pilgrimage. But now that I know so much about the other life stages, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for them! Wouldn’t it be cool to come across a cat or chrysalis?

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5 thoughts on “Tiger Swallowtail

  1. Pingback: High Water | New Hampshire Garden Solutions

  2. Hi Jennifer, I visited looking for bird pictures and lingered for ages looking at all kinds of beautiful nature images. Thanks for your beautiful site!

  3. Glad to find your blog, and I love the header photo. I’m trying to get pix of ferns around here these days – up to 25 species now. I’ve noticed the early appearance of the swallowtails each year here, and realize it must be because the chrysalis overwinters. They also seem to hover over flowers a long time and re easy to get photos of compared to other butterflies that flutters away before you can even focus!

    Cheers,
    The Furry Gnome

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