Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Tiger Swallowtail’


The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is usually found around woodlands, but ventures into gardens and meadows in search of nectar. Although the swallowtail nectars at a number of garden plants, it seems to be especially attracted to coneflowers and liatris, where its broad yellow wings contrast attractively with the purple flowers. In the past few days, however, the swallowtails I’ve seen have been visiting the ligularia, which is now in full bloom.


It’s easy to see how the Tiger Swallowtail comes by its name. It’s interesting that the stripes are not only on the butterfly’s wings, but also extend to its body. Once a swallowtail landed on the ligularia, it would work its way around the circumference of the flower stalk, moving from flower to flower, until it returned to its starting point. It would then move on to a new spire.


Ligularia stenocephala, sometimes called Narrow-spiked Rayflower, does well in partial shade, where it is protected from the hottest part of the day. The long, bottle-brush spikes of yellow flowers can reach 4 to 5 feet in height. It is a hardy, dependable perennial in southern Ontario gardens.


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After Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails are probably the most familiar and well-loved eastern North American butterflies. They are certainly eye-catching, with their bright yellow and black colouring and long-tailed wings. Flying from spring to fall, they are avid flower visitors. Females generally have more extensive blue on their hindwing than males. The Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar feeds on the leaves of trees and shrubs, including cottonwood and cherry, while adults nectar at a variety of flowers, and are pictured here on lilac and garden phlox.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) are similar in appearance, with the latter occurring farther north. Until 1991 the Canadian was thought to be a subspecies of the Eastern, but research has established that it is a separate species. The two species may hybridize where their ranges overlap. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail produces two generations a year, while the Canadian, just one. Tiger Swallowtails are appreciated by birds as tasty morsels and missing wing pieces may represent close calls.


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