Tiger swallowtails are beautifully-patterned black and yellow butterflies. If you’ve ever seen them flying past or clustering around a muddy puddle, you know they’re a sight to see. So, what if you want to see more of them? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk about where to find tiger swallowtails, as well as the plants that may attract them to your yard.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Tiger Swallowtails Live?
Tiger swallowtails are found widespread throughout the eastern half of the United States, from the Dakotas southward through parts of Texas. Their range also extends into Mexico, where they can be found in pockets in a couple of states.
If you live in the western half of the U.S. or Mexico, you may think that you have seen tiger swallowtails in your area. What you actually see is the western swallowtail, which is a close cousin of the tiger swallowtail.
Both tiger swallowtails and western swallowtails have the characteristic yellow wings and black stripes. They look almost exactly alike.
The main difference between the two species is that they feed on different plants during the caterpillar stage. Western swallowtails mostly eat the leaves of aspens and cottonwoods, while tiger swallowtails eat the leaves of a completely different family of trees.
Are Tiger Swallowtails Found in Other Parts of the World?
Tiger swallowtails are native to North America. Though they are found primarily in the United States, they can also be found in parts of Mexico, as mentioned.
They are also found in parts of Canada, especially southern and eastern regions. There is a closely-related species of swallowtail, the Canadian tiger swallowtail, that looks almost identical and is more widely found throughout Canada.
Tiger swallowtails and Canadian tiger swallowtails are both found in many of the same areas, and they sometimes interbreed to create hybrid butterflies. These hybrids look no different from other tiger swallowtails but have slight generic differences.
Are There Different Types of Tiger Swallowtails?
As mentioned, the Canadian tiger swallowtail looks a lot like the eastern tiger swallowtail, which is sometimes considered the “main” type of the butterfly. But did you know there are actually four different types of tiger swallowtails?
For a long time, they were considered to be subspecies of the same butterfly, but they are now thought to be four separate, though closely related, species. They are extremely difficult to tell apart because they look quite similar and their domains often overlap.
The four species of tiger swallowtail include:
- Eastern tiger swallowtail: The eastern tiger swallowtail is the brightest yellow of the four species, as well as the most widely distributed. It is found throughout the eastern half of the United States, from the eastern parts of Colorado through New England and Florida, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.
- Canadian tiger swallowtail: The Canadian tiger swallowtail is found throughout Canada, from parts of Quebec and Ontario westward to Manitoba and northward as far as the Arctic Circle. It is paler in color than its eastern cousin but otherwise looks nearly identical to the other tiger swallowtails.
- Appalachian tiger swallowtail: The Appalachian swallowtail can be found in the Appalachian regions from Georgia through Pennsylvania. This butterfly is pale yellow in color and larger than the other tiger swallowtail species.
- Western swallowtail: This tiger swallowtail can be found throughout the western parts of North America, from British Columbia to Baja California eastward to New Mexico, Colorado, and the Dakotas. It is the same pale yellow as the Canadian and Appalachian tiger swallowtails.
What Plants Attract Tiger Swallowtails?
Tiger swallowtails feed on the leaves of various woody plants when they are caterpillars. As adults, they feed on the nectar of brightly colored native and non-native flowers.
The plants that attract them vary widely depending on the species and territories of the individual butterflies. For example, eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillars eat the leaves of such plants as tulip and magnolia trees, while western swallowtail caterpillars feed on cottonwood and aspen leaves.
Like other butterflies, tiger swallowtails are attracted to fragrant and colorful flowers, such as magnolias, Mexican sunflowers, and cactus flowers. Again, they will gravitate toward different types of flowers depending what’s available to them in their given region.
The adult butterflies are generally less picky about their food than the caterpillars. Caterpillars will tend to only eat the leaves of whatever plant their egg was laid on, while the butterflies flit from flower to flower, taking in the nectar from many different kinds.
Tiger swallowtails are most likely to be attracted to areas with both flowers for them to nectar from and host plants for them to lay their eggs on. For example, if you live in the south and have magnolia trees, you may have lots of tiger swallowtails because they will feed on the flowers, meet plenty of potential mates, and lay eggs on the magnolia leaves.
If you have tulip trees or other host plants, you may want to plant flowers near the trees to attract tiger swallowtails. Good annual flowers to plant are zinnias and Mexican sunflowers; you might also want to plant some perennials such as butterfly bush and hydrangeas.
Check out this video to learn more about flowers that will attract not only tiger swallowtails, but other butterflies as well.
Tiger swallowtails can be found throughout North America. The most common species, the eastern tiger swallowtail, is found in the eastern parts of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, but three other closely-related species can be found in other areas as well.
You can find tiger swallowtails near their host plants, such as tulip, magnolia, and aspen trees. You may also find them nectaring on brightly colored and fragrant flowers, such as hydrangeas, butterfly bush, and zinnias.