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The State Insect of Arizona

Updated on June 23, 2016
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State Insect of Arizona -- The Two-Tailed Swallowtail

This huge butterfly -- the largest in the US -- closely resembles the tiger swallowtail (Pterourus glaucus). The two-tailed is limited to the US west of the Rockies, and even then is more common in the southern portion of that range. It floats like a kite high in the trees along streams and forest edges, coming down to feed at thistles and asters. I remember the first time I saw one, in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, flying along a stream in the heat of a desert day. It is a truly magnificent insect, and deserves its status as the state insect of Arizona, a state with more than its fair share of cool insects in the first place.

Two-Tailed Swallowtail Showing Both Tails...

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Papilio multicaudata

The scientific name of the two-tailed swallowtail indicates that it belongs to the genus Papilio, a large group of showy butterflies that often have tails on their wings. Early entomologists thought the tails resembled those of barn swallows, hence the common name.

The insect ranges from Guatemala up through British Colombia -- a huge area -- although is most commonly found at lower elevations and in warmer climates.

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Two-Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar

The larva of Papilio multicaudata resembles that of the tiger swallowtail. It feeds on chokecherry, ash, and Arizona Sycamore. This amazing insect richly deserves its status as the state insect of Arizona.

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