Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Dark Form Female)

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Papilio glaucus
Papilionidae (swallowtails)

The only swallowtail in Missouri with yellow and black stripes. Some females are yellow with black stripes, similar to males; others are black with darker black stripes. Both female forms have blue scales on the dorsal (top) side of the hindwings. Dark-form females do not have two complete rows of orange spots on the lower side of the hindwing.

Larvae are bright green and have two large eyespots on the thorax behind the head.

Wingspan: 2½–4½ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Adults may be found flying in forests, fields and gardens.
Host plants for the larvae include hop tree, tulip tree and various species of ashes, apples and cherries. Adults drink nectar from a variety of flowers. Males are more likely than females to “puddle” (sip liquid and accompanying salts from puddles or damp soil). They transfer minerals to females during mating, which helps the females to lay more eggs. It also increases the survival chances of the young.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Breeding resident.
Life cycle: 
Adults fly from late March into October. Researchers have learned that males prefer the yellow females, but that dark-form females seem to survive longer, giving them time to lay more eggs. The dark females are found only where their range overlaps that of the pipevine swallowtail, which looks very similar. Pipevine swallowtails contain acrid body juices, making them unpalatable to predators.
Human connections: 
Economic factors are often how we judge the “importance” of something. Still, the breathtaking sight of several huge yellow tiger swallowtails fluttering around a flowering shrub transcends mere economics: It inspires us.
Ecosystem connections: 
The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.
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