home | spring garden | newcomer school garden

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Throughout its lifecycle from eggs to adults, eastern tiger swallowtails are camouflaged in order to trick predators. Their tiny green spherical eggs easily blend in to leaf surfaces. When the eggs hatch, the new caterpillars are brown with some white markings, resembling bird droppings. As they molt and mature, caterpillars turn green and develop two large spots on both sides of their body near their head. To predators, these spots look like the eyes of a larger animal such as a snake, so predators might be discouraged from attacking the caterpillar. When the caterpillar pupates, it creates a chrysalis that blends in with tree bark. Wings of adult females have larger black lines and spots than wings of males. Females can be one of two forms, yellow or dark. Adult butterflies visit plants such as butterfly bush, oregano, zinnia, purple coneflower, and phlox, or overripe fruit.

Photo from Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org: tiger swallowtail egg, with a penny next to it to show the size of egg is as small as one of the letters on the penny Photo from Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org: tiger swallowtail larvae on a leaf, showing its markings that resemble eyes of a larger animal Photo from Sturgis McKeever, Georgia Southern University, Bugwood.org: tiger swallowtail chrysalis hanging from the underside of a branch, matching coloration to easily blend in with bark adult female tiger swallowtail, yellow form adult female tiger swallowtail, dark form