The tiger swallowtail is a species of butterfly. Butterflies are part of the insect order Lepidoptera. Moths are also members of this order.
The tiger swallowtail is one of the most recognizable butterflies around. Males are typically yellow to yellow-orange with wings that are bordered in black. Each wing has four black tiger stripes across the top that run vertically. The bottom margins of the wings have blue spots. Females can range in color from the yellow of the males to being almost completely black or bluish-black.
Tiger swallowtail butterflies are common in North America. There are two species, the eastern tiger swallowtail, and the western tiger swallowtail. The eastern tiger swallowtail can be found east of the Mississippi River and some Mexican states. The western tiger swallowtail can be found west of the Rocky Mountains and south into Baja California. Tiger swallowtails prefer woodlands, meadows, riparian regions, and gardens.
A full-grown tiger swallowtail has a wingspan of 3.1-5.5 inches (7.9-14 cm). It has a lifespan of about two weeks. The tiger swallowtail is a mostly solitary butterfly. It travels alone, visiting flowers and plants where it eats liquid and nectar. However, tiger swallowtails migrate in large groups. They fly south in autumn to warm winter regions and return north in spring.
Like all butterflies, the tiger swallowtail goes through a complete metamorphosis. There are four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult butterfly.
The female lays a single green egg on a leaf and flies away. After four to ten days, the egg hatches into a larva or caterpillar. The caterpillar feeds on plant leaves, usually the leaf it hatches on. After three to four weeks, the tiger swallowtail caterpillar enters the pupa stage. It drops to the ground and pupates on the underside of twigs or dead leaves for ten to 20 days until it unfolds as an adult butterfly.
Two or three generations of tiger swallowtail butterflies occur over the length of one summer. The tiger swallowtails that fly south in autumn are the great-great-grandchildren of the swallowtails that flew north in spring.
The scientific name of the tiger swallowtail is Papilio.