Tiger Swallowtail: Key Facts

Did you know that the highly recognizable tiger swallowtail has a dimorphic black form? Or that there are several different species of this butterfly that look almost exactly the same? Keep reading to learn more about these and other tiger swallowtail key facts.

Quick Facts About Tiger Swallowtails

Scientific Name:Papilio
Type of Animal:Insect; swallowtail butterfly
Number of Species:4
Physical Description:Large, colorful butterflies. Most are yellow with black stripes, though some are black with darker black stripes. Many have bright blue and orange markings on their lower wings. Yellow tiger swallowtails have striped yellow and black bodies, while black tigers have solid black bodies.
Distribution:Native to North America; found throughout Canada, the United States, and parts of Mexico.
Habitat:Temperate forests, urban woodlands and wetlands, mountains, desert regions.
Size:Wingspan up to 5.5 inches in diameter.
Lifespan:2 months
Diet:Caterpillars eat a variety of leafy host plants, including:
– Tulip trees
– Magnolia trees
– Wild cherry
– Willow
– Cottonwood
– Aspen

Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of many flowers, including:
– Milkweed
– Lilacs
– Joe Pye weed
– Zinnias
– Roses
– Wild cherry blossoms
– Thistles
Predators:Tiger swallowtails may be preyed on by various animals, including:
– Birds
– Cats
– Dogs
– Rats
– Raccoons

What is a Tiger Swallowtail?

Tiger swallowtails are beautiful large butterflies that can be found throughout North America. There are four distinct species which appear almost identical to each other: the Eastern, Western, Appalachian, and Canadian tiger swallowtails.

These bright yellow butterflies are named for the tiger-like black stripes on their wings. Some female tiger swallowtails are all black with darker black stripes and extra blue markings on their lower wings.

Tiger swallowtails eat a variety of foods, both as caterpillars and as butterflies, depending on what is available to them in a given region.

Check out this video for some great up-close footage of this beautiful butterfly:

How Many Babies Do Tiger Swallowtails Have?

During their short lifespans, adult tiger swallowtail butterflies can produce a lot of offspring. This is necessary because the young are often eaten by insects or birds or killed by a host of other environmental factors.

Like other butterflies, tiger swallowtails lay eggs. A single female may lay as many as 250 eggs in her life.

Many of these eggs do not hatch, and even those that do are often killed during the caterpillar or chrysalis stage. A relatively small percentage of tiger swallowtail eggs reach adulthood.

How Long Do Tiger Swallowtails Live?

Butterflies have fairly short lifespans, much like other insects. Tiger swallowtails live for about 2 months in total, from egg to adult butterfly.

These butterflies have various stages of life. They exist in the egg stage for about 5 to 10 days; the caterpillar stage for 3 to 4 weeks; the pupal stage for 10 to 20 days (or several months when overwintering); and the butterfly stage for anywhere from 6 to 14 days.

Of course, this only applies to those butterflies that reach adulthood and die of natural causes. They may be killed by predators or environmental factors at any point along the way.


Tiger swallowtails are beautiful butterflies found throughout North America. They live for up to 2 months, starting as small green eggs, advancing through the caterpillar and pupal stages before emerging as adult butterflies.

Don’t forget to read about other forest insects – these are our popular guides about wasps and ants.

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