Are Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies Rare?

With their boldly striped black and yellow wings, tiger swallowtails are beautiful and highly recognizable butterflies. Would you like to learn more about them? Perhaps you’re wondering: are tiger swallowtail butterflies rare or endangered? Keep reading. In this article, we’ll answer this question and more. 

What Are Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies?

What Are Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies?

Tiger swallowtails are large butterflies and one of the showiest members of the swallowtail family. They can be found throughout much of North America.

There are four species of tiger swallowtail: the eastern, western, Canadian, and Appalachian. All four species are genetically unique but look nearly identical.

Check out this video to learn how to tell the different tiger swallowtail species apart:

Tiger swallowtails nectar on a variety of flowers as adults. Depending on the species and habitat, their larvae feed on various host plants such as tulip trees, poplars, cottonwoods, willows, and wild cherry trees.

Tiger swallowtails have four distinct life stages: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), and butterfly. During the spring and summer, their total life cycle lasts about two months.

Adult butterflies typically live for a couple of weeks and produce two to three broods per year. The last brood of the season overwinters in the chrysalis stage, with adult butterflies emerging the following spring to continue the life cycle.

Where Do Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies Live?

Eastern tiger swallowtails are the most widely distributed of the four species. They are found throughout much of the central and eastern regions of the United States, as well as parts of Canada.

Canadian tiger swallowtails live in some of the same regions as their eastern cousins but are usually found in Canada. They are not as widespread as eastern tiger swallowtails.

Western tiger swallowtails are found primarily west of the Rocky Mountains. They are common throughout their range, which is smaller than the range of the eastern tiger swallowtail.

Appalachian tiger swallowtails have the smallest range of the four species. They are found throughout the Appalachian regions of the eastern U.S., but are limited to higher elevations than eastern and Canadian tiger swallowtails.

Are Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies Rare?

Tiger swallowtails can be seen in most parts of the United States and portions of Canada. They cover a lot of territory, and there are typically a lot of butterflies within that territory.

In fact, tiger swallowtails are considered one of the most common butterflies in North America. Their combined range extends from the east coast to the west and from the Gulf of Mexico into southern Canada.

Tiger swallowtails as a whole are prolific butterflies. They are not rare.

Some species are a little less common than others. For example, there are more eastern tiger swallowtails than any of the other species.

Appalachian tiger swallowtails are the least common species because their range is limited. They are not seen as often as the three other species of tiger swallowtail.

But even Appalachian tiger swallowtails can hardly be considered a rare species. They are less common than other tiger swallowtails, but they are still seen more often than truly rare species of insects.

Are Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies Endangered?

Taken as a group, tiger swallowtails are not endangered. They are highly adaptable and have many host plants, so there is little concern that these butterflies could disappear anytime soon.

That said, individual species of tiger swallowtail are sometimes considered endangered, or at least threatened.

Specifically, the Appalachian swallowtail is an endangered species because of its limited range and the fact that it only has one host plant, the wild black cherry. It also has only one brood per year.

Appalachian tiger swallowtails live in colder, more mountainous regions than other swallowtail species. This harsher climate could be a contributing factor to the species’ limited numbers.

Habitat loss could also be a contributing factor, so activists and conservationists are making efforts to preserve the butterfly’s natural environment and limit human interactions.

How Can You Attract Tiger Swallowtails to Your Yard?

Would you like to see more tiger swallowtails in your yard? Keep reading to find out various methods of attracting these showy butterflies.

Plant Flowers

One great way to attract tiger swallowtails and other types of butterflies is to plant a flower garden. You’ll want to include their favorite types of nectar flowers, such as:

  • Zinnias
  • Azaleas
  • Roses
  • Honeysuckles
  • Yucca

Having a variety of flowers will turn your yard into a sanctuary for various types of pollinators and will give you a good chance of drawing in tiger swallowtails. 

Plant Host Plants

Though having flowers will help attract butterflies such as tiger swallowtails, planting their host plants will help you keep them around.

Common host plants to add to your yard include:

  • Tulip trees
  • Willows
  • Poplars
  • Alders
  • Cottonwoods

Giving tiger swallowtails a food source for both the adults (flowers) and their young (host trees) will ensure you attract the greatest number of tiger swallowtails. 

Plus, most butterflies prefer to lay eggs near the place of their own birth, so once you have established food sources for these butterflies, there’s a good chance you’ll continue to see them year after year.

Provide Mud Puddles

Tiger swallowtails mostly feed on nectar from flowers, but they sometimes like to feed on muddy water from riverbanks, pond edges, and puddles. The mud contains minerals and other nutrients that can extend the butterflies’ lives.

Pick a designated spot in your yard or flower garden to keep bare. Water the spot as needed to produce a fresh supply of mud.

Keeping mud puddles around can attract clusters of tiger swallowtails that feed together on the muddy water, as you can see in the following video:

Keep Predators Out

Finally, making sure your yard is safe for butterflies will help you attract more tiger swallowtails. You can do this by diminishing the number of predators hanging around your yard.

If you have pets such as dogs or cats, keep them inside or well away from your flowers and host plants. Discourage wild animals from coming into your yard by using deterrents.

Avoid putting up bird feeders and nesting boxes to keep the number of birds in your yard to a minimum. If you do have feeders or nesting boxes, keep them well away from your flower garden and butterfly host plants.


Tiger swallowtail butterflies are not rare; in fact, they are quite common. If you want to attract some of these pretty butterflies to your yard, consider planting flowers and host plants, providing mud puddles for them, and keeping your yard as free of predators as possible.

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