Butterflies - Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in Louisiana

Male Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from a native Pickerel Weed Flower.
Male Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from a native Pickerel Weed Flower. | Source

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the largest, and I think the most beautiful, of our southern Swallowtails. Adults are yellow with black tiger stripes. This butterfly is common along streams and in forests. It also visits gardens readily.

Males can be seen "puddling" around mud holes or the edges of streams.

These butterflies will fly high in the air. They fly from spring to fall. Where we live, in the deep south, we seem them all through the year, except when we have freezing weather.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail inhabits Louisiana. There is also a western Tiger Swallowtail, that is marked a little differently than the Eastern.

This page has information about and pictures of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and its larval food and nectar plants. I hope this page will help anyone who enjoys gardening and would like to attract Tiger Swallowtails and other butterflies to their yard.


Yellow Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Yellow form of Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Yellow form of Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail | Source

Female Tiger Swallowtails

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, black form
Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, black form | Source

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails

Female Tiger Swallowtail butterflies have more blue on their hind wings than their male counterparts.

They also come in 2 colors, the regular yellow and a dark brown, almost black phase. It is thought that the dark phase is a protective adaptation that mimics the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail. The dark phase is more common in the south, where we ,and in areas that have populations of Pipevine Swallowtails, which we do.

Tulip Tree is a Larval Food Plant

Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera has beautiful flowers.
Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera has beautiful flowers. | Source

Some Other Larval Plants

The Black Cherry, Prunus serotina has lovely blooms and tasty cherries.
The Black Cherry, Prunus serotina has lovely blooms and tasty cherries. | Source
Willow trees, like this Black Willow are another larval plant of the Tiger Swallowtail.
Willow trees, like this Black Willow are another larval plant of the Tiger Swallowtail. | Source

Tiger Swallowtail Larval Plants

Many of the larval food plants of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail are native trees. The list includes:

  • Tuliptree, Liriodendron tulipifera
  • Wild Cherries, Prunus spp.
  • Willows, Salix spp.
  • Birches, Betula spp.
  • Ashes, Fraxinus spp.
  • Cottonwood, Populus spp.
  • Sweet Bay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana

Caterpillars first look like bird droppings, but as they grow, they turn green and develop large eyespots and a fearsome large head end, which helps protect them from predators.

Caterpillar

The Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar is a little scary looking, but is harmless.
The Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar is a little scary looking, but is harmless. | Source

Tiger Swallowtail on Mexican Sunflower

Tiger Swallowtail on one of its favorite flowers, Tithonia.
Tiger Swallowtail on one of its favorite flowers, Tithonia. | Source

Some Favorite Nectar Plant Photos

Pickerel Weed is used by Swallowtails and native Bumblebees.
Pickerel Weed is used by Swallowtails and native Bumblebees. | Source
Hummingbirds and butterflies use the red flowers of the plant.
Hummingbirds and butterflies use the red flowers of the plant. | Source
Blazing Star Liatris is a favorite nectar plant of many butterflies.
Blazing Star Liatris is a favorite nectar plant of many butterflies. | Source
Native Azaleas like this Rhododendron canescens are used by butterflies and hummingbirds.
Native Azaleas like this Rhododendron canescens are used by butterflies and hummingbirds. | Source
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) is used by Monarchs, Swallowtails and other butterflies.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) is used by Monarchs, Swallowtails and other butterflies. | Source
Elephant Garlic flowers are often visited by Tiger Swallowtails.
Elephant Garlic flowers are often visited by Tiger Swallowtails. | Source
Native Ironweed, Vernonia spp., is a favorite of Swallowtails.
Native Ironweed, Vernonia spp., is a favorite of Swallowtails. | Source

Favorite Nectar Plants

There are many nectar plants that Tiger Swallowtails and other butterflies use. Here is a list of some Eastern Swallowtail favorites.

  • Azaleas, Rhododendron spp.
  • Bottlebrush, Callistemon spp.
  • Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa
  • Butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii
  • Button Bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  • Pickerel Weed, Pontederia cordata
  • Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
  • Eupatoriums, Eupatorium spp.
  • Blazing Stars, Liatris spp.
  • Elephant Garlic, Allium spp.
  • Oregano, Origanum vulgare
  • Ironweeds, Vernonia spp.
  • Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia spp.
  • Zinnias, Zinnia spp.


For more information about gardening to attract Tiger Swallowtail and other butterflies, consult one of these great books on the subject.

You'll find plant lists for your area and information about the life of butterflies, as well as landscaping ideas and tips.



If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you will need to plant both larval food and nectar plants. Each kind of butterfly uses a certain type of food plant on which to lay its eggs.

The butterfly guides below will give you a list of the larval plants which each type of butterfly requires.

The caterpillar guide above will help you identify the larval stage of most butterflies and moths in North America, so you'll know what those caterpillars that are eating your plants will turn out to be.


Field of Zinnas and Sunflowers

Zinnas and Sunflowers, a paradise for butterflies and birds.
Zinnas and Sunflowers, a paradise for butterflies and birds. | Source

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Buddleia

© 2011 Yvonne L. B.

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Please don't flutter off before leaving a comment. 11 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

I didn't flutter off! Haha! What a gorgeous butterfly is the Tiger Swallowtail. Thanks to you I know know more about them. This gets a beautiful rating from me.


naturegirl7 profile image

naturegirl7 5 years ago from South Louisiana Author

Thanks Peggy, Tiger Swallowtails are one of my favorite subjects. I love to photograph them.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo

This is a gorgeous and beautifully done hub! You pictures, videos and info are great! UP!


naturegirl7 profile image

naturegirl7 5 years ago from South Louisiana Author

Thanks Mrs. Menagerie. We are lucky to have the habitat for Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, so many photo ops present themselves.


Wrath Warbone profile image

Wrath Warbone 5 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

Beautiful photos. They are so pretty. Thanks for the full info, too.


naturegirl7 profile image

naturegirl7 5 years ago from South Louisiana Author

It looks like there are going to be quite a few butterflies this year since the rains have finally started. The flowers and larval plants are growing and the butterflies are thriving. Thanks for the comment.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

Lovely photos and a well written hub. I love butterflies and outdoor plantlife. You have brought it all to life.


FaithDream profile image

FaithDream 4 years ago from (Midwest) USA

These photos are beautiful. What a great hub! The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is my favorite butterfly. Their wing tips are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for sharing these photos.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

My favorite butterflies are the tiger swallowtails. In the last few days I have seen 3 on my spice bush! I took a very short video of one as it carefully tiptoed from nectar tube to nectar tube. They seem to have such a good time floating and flitting around my garden, which is loaded with oregano, butterfly bushes, coneflowers and many other of my favorites. Voted Up+ and pinned ;) Pearl


naturegirl7 profile image

naturegirl7 3 years ago from South Louisiana Author

Pearl,

Tiger Swallowtails are one of my favorites, too. Their size and color is outstanding. The swallowtails are one of the first to show up in numbers down here in Louisiana. Thanks for your comment, vote and pinning.


naturegirl7s profile image

naturegirl7s 2 years ago from Covington, LA

Tiger swallowtails are beautiful. They visit my shining butterfly bush and pickerel weed often.

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