The Swallowtail - A Beautiful Butterfly
by Christi Vega
Swallowtail butterflies are some of the most beautiful butterflies
found anywhere. The North American species are large, brightly colored
butterflies with tailed, rear wings. There are more than 600 species
worldwide with only about 30 of those living in North America. They
have wingspans of 2 to 5 ˝ inches long.
Most swallowtails belong to four general subgroups. These groups are
the Black Swallowtails ( Papilio spp.), Giant Swallowtails (
Heraclides spp.), Tiger Swallowtails (Pterourus spp.), and Pipevine
Swallowtails ( Battus spp.). The Zebra Swallowtails belong to another
The Black Swallowtails are black with yellow spots or broad yellow
bands. Their caterpillars usually feed on plants in the carrot family
such as Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, or cow parsnip. North American
members of this family include Eastern Black, Desert, Short-tailed,
Western Black, Oregon, and Anise.
Giant Swallowtails are brown and yellow in color. Their caterpillars
prefer citrus plants and trees, torchwood, prickly ash, and pepper
plants, In North America you can find Thoas, Giant or Orange Dog,
Schaus’, and Ruby-spotted members of this group.
The Tiger Swallowtails are colored just as their name suggests, yellow
with black stripes. You will find their caterpillars feeding on
deciduous trees. They probably have the greatest variety of host
plants, but their favorites include willow, cottonwood, birch, ash,
poplar, sycamore and cherry trees. The Tiger, Western Tiger,
Two-tailed Tiger, Pale Tiger, Spicebush or Green Cloud, and Palamedes
all live in North America.
Pipevine Swallowtails are usually blackish in color. Their
caterpillars eat pipe vines, aristolochias, which are woody vines with
sharp smelling roots. This food makes most of these butterflies not
very tasty to most predators. North American species include the Blue
Swallowtail and the Gold Rim.
Zebra Swallowtails are aptly named for their color, which resembles
that of a zebra, white with black stripes. There are only two members
of this group in North America the Zebra and the Dark Zebra
Swallowtail. You’ll find their caterpillars on pawpaws and other
members of the Asimina species. Because of this very specialized host
plant, the Zebra numbers have dropped rapidly in recent years.
Have you seen a swallowtail recently?
Christi Vega is the author of `The Joy and Serenity of Creating A
Butterfly Garden`. Go to http://www.abutterflygarden.com to learn how
you can create a beautiful garden that attracts these marvel winged
creatures to your home. You may reprint this article in its entirety
as long as the resource box is included.