Eastern Tiger Swallowtails
When you see a large, showy butterfly flitting around your garden, a roadside, fields or woodsd, take a closer look. It may be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail(Papilio glaucus), which is a native in eastern North America. It’s at home in Florida, except the Florida Keys.
From February to November, these butterflies feed on nectar from sturdy plants, particularly those that have “red or pink” flowers. Look for adults with a wing span of 3.1 to 5.5 inches. Males are yellow with four black stripes on their forewings. Females may be yellow or black. The yellow females have a band of blue spots along their hind wings. Black females do not have distinguishing markings, they are just dark.
These dark females may be a species preservation mechanism as some predators will avoid them, thinking they are another form of swallowtail that is poisonous.
Adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtails live about a month. They are loners and are frequently observed flying above the tree tops. Males pursue females by frequenting areas that contain the kinds of plants on which females prefer to lay their eggs. To attract or tempt the females, the males release a pheromone that encourages mating. While courting, the butterflies engage in a ritual mating dance, fluttering their wings around each other before they land and mate.
Two to three broods may be produced each year in our area. Trees and shrubs of the Magnoliaceae (magnolia) and Rosaceae plant families are the favorite host plants on which the females lay their green eggs.
As the young caterpillars develop, they are brown and white. Then change to green with black, yellow and blue spots on the thorax. The caterpillar then goes into a resting stage, forming a chrysalis from which the butterfly will emerge