EASTERN TIGER SWALLOWTAIL TAXIDERMY
LEARNING ABOUT BUTTERFLIES
Species Papilio Glaucus
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The Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is a species of swallowtail butterfly native to eastern North America. It is one of the most familiar butterflies in the eastern United States,
where it is common in many different habitats. It flies from spring to fall, during which it produces two to three broods. Adults feed on the nectar of many species of flowers, mostly
from those of the Apocynaceae, Asteraceae, and Fabaceae families. P. glaucus has a wingspan measuring 7.9 to 14 cm (3.1 to 5.5 in). The male is yellow with four black "tiger stripes"
on each fore wing. Females may be either yellow or black, making them dimorphic. The yellow morph is similar to the male, but with a conspicuous band of blue spots along the
hindwing, while the dark morph is almost completely black.
The green eggs are laid singly on plants of the Magnoliaceae and Rosaceae families. Young caterpillars are brown and white; older ones are green with two black, yellow, and blue eyespots on the thorax. The caterpillar will turn brown prior to pupating. It will reach a length of 5.5 centimetres (2.2 in). The chrysalis varies from a whitish color to dark brown. Hibernation occurs in this stage in locations with cold winter months.
The first known drawing of a North America butterfly was that of an Eastern tiger swallowtail. It was drawn by John White in 1587, during Sir Walter Raleigh's third expedition to Virginia. White named his drawing "Mamankanois" which is believed to be a Native American word for "butterfly." This species was later described by Linnaeus in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae in 1758. Some taxonomists place P. glaucus, along with the other tiger swallowtails, in the genus Pterourus.
The Eastern tiger swallowtail was formerly considered a single species with a vast range into northern Canada and the eastern United States. In 1991, the subspecies Papilio glaucus canadensis was elevated to species level, thus reducing the range of P. glaucus to south of Canada. In 2002, another closely related species, P. appalachiensis, was described by H. Pavulaan and D. M. Wright from the southern Appalachian Mountains. These two species can be separated from P. glaucus by size; P. canadensis is smaller and P. appalachiensis is larger. These two also have a solid yellow bar along the margin of the ventral fore wing. P. canadensis females are not dimorphic, and P. appalachiensis females are rarely black.
Similar species for the dark P. glaucus female include the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), the Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), and the female Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). B. philenor differs from the dark morph P. glaucus by the row of light-colored spots on each wing margin. P. troilus is more greenish, and has two rows of orange spots on the ventral hind wing. P. polyxenes is smaller, and the ventral hind wing has two rows of yellow-orange spots.
Eastern tiger swallowtails are diurnal, and are usually solitary. Adults are known to fly high above the ground, usually seen above the tree canopy. Males seek females by patrolling habitats containing the larval host plants. During courtship, the male and female fly about each other prior to landing and mating. The male releases perfume-like pheromones during courtship to entice the female into mating.
Adults use a wide range of food sources, most preferring to nectar on sturdy plants with red or pink flowers. Many members of the families Apocynaceae, Asteraceae, and Fabaceae are used as common nectar sources. Males participate in a behavior called puddling, in which they congregate on mud, damp gravel, or puddles. They extract sodium ions and amino acids from these sources which aid in reproduction. Males that puddle are typically fresh, and puddle only for their first couple of days. Females will occasionally puddle, but do not form congregations. Adults have also been seen feeding on dung, carrion, and urine.