The tiger swallowtail, or eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is a species of the papilionid butterfly family native to North America. It is large butterfly (wingspan 7.9 – 14 cms), and 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 time it produces two to three broods. Adults feed on the nectar of many species of flowers. Males are yellow with four black “tiger stripes” on each fore wing. Females are dimorphic in coloration, and can be found in as either a yellow or black morph. The yellow morph is similar to the male.

The eastern tiger swallowtail lays her green eggs singly on hostplants in many woody plant families, most commonly on Magnoliaceae and Rosaceae (for example, poplars, mountain ash, birch, cherry, tulip tree, ash, basswood, apple, maple, willow, magnolia, and occasionally sassafras). Young caterpillars (first three instars) are brown and white, with a coloration pattern that mimics bird droppings to help protect it from predators. In later instars, caterpillars are green with two black, yellow, and blue eyespots on the thorax, thought to deter birds. Caterpillars reach a length of 5.5 cm.

Monarch butterflies embark on a marvelous migratory phenomenon. They travel between 1,200 and 2,800 miles or more from the United States and Canada to central Mexican forests. There the butterflies hibernate in the mountain forests, where a less extreme climate provides them a better chance to survive.

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Subfamily: danainae
  • Identification: Upperside of male is bright orange with wide black borders and black veins; hindwing has a patch of scent scales. Upperside of female is orange-brown with wide black borders and blurred black veins. Both sexes have white spots on borders and apex. The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) is a Mullerian mimic; it has similar coloration and is also distasteful.
  • Wing Span: 3 3/8 – 4 7/8 inches (8.6 – 12.4 cm).
  • Life History: Adults warm up by basking dorsally (with their wings open and toward the sun). Females lay eggs singly under the host leaves; caterpillars eat leaves and flowers. Adults make massive migrations from August-October, flying thousands of miles south to hibernate along the California coast and in central Mexico. A few overwinter along the Gulf coast or south Atlantic coast. Along the way, Monarchs stop to feed on flower nectar and to roost together at night. At the Mexico wintering sites, butterflies roost in trees and form huge aggregations that may have millions of individuals. During the winter the butterflies may take moisture and flower nectar during warm days. Most have mated before they leave for the north in the spring, and females lay eggs along the way. Residents of tropical areas do not migrate but appear to make altitude changes during the dry season.
  • Flight: In North America during spring and summer there may be 1-3 broods in the north and 4-6 broods in the south. May breed all year in Florida, South Texas, and southeastern California.
  • Caterpillar Hosts: Milkweeds including common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and showy milkweed (A. speciosa); and milkweed vine in the tropics. Most milkweeds contain cardiac glycosides which are stored in the bodies of both the caterpillar and adult. These poisons are distasteful and emetic to birds and other vertebrate predators. After tasting a Monarch, a predator might associate the bright warning colors of the adult or caterpillar with an unpleasant meal, and avoid Monarchs in the future.
  • Adult Food: Nectar from all milkweeds. Early in the season before milkweeds bloom, Monarchs visit a variety of flowers including dogbane, lilac, red clover, lantana, and thistles. In the fall adults visit composites including goldenrods, blazing stars, ironweed, and tickseed sunflower.
  • Habitat: Many open habitats including fields, meadows, weedy areas, marshes, and roadsides.
  • Range: Southern Canada south through all of the United States, Central America, and most of South America. Also present in Australia, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands.
  • Conservation: Overwintering sites in California and Mexico should be protected and conserved.
  • Management Needs: Develop conservation and management plans for all wintering sites, migration corridors, and principal breeding areas.

The viceroy and queen butterflies are easy to confuse with monarchs

Viceroy vs Monarch

The viceroy has good reason for mimicking monarchs, their survival depends upon confusing predators. That makes it extra tricky for us. The viceroy can be identified by the black line across its hindwings, which monarch butterflies do not have. The viceroy is also a bit smaller than the monarch.

Queen vs Monarch

The queen butterfly has white spots on its hindwings, distinguishing it from the monarch. It is also a darker color orange than monarchs. When the wings of a queen butterfly are open, it’s a bit easier to tell the two species apart. During the caterpillar phase, however, the monarch and queen are very similar. The queen caterpillar has three sets of protuberances, while the monarch caterpillar has only two sets.

Monarch butterflies are unpalatable due to toxic milkweeds they consume as larvae, which results in low levels of predation in their natural environment. Viceroy butterflies have wings emblazoned with similar shape and color schemes, ostensibly reducing the predation rate. Colors must be matched very closely as avian predators have some of the most developed eyes in the animal kingdom.

Both Queen and Monarch caterpillars (larvae) eat milkweed. They can be raised on the same plant at the same time without problem.
A Monarch chrysalis (pupa) has more gold dots than a Queen chrysalis. At the side base of the chrysalis, gold dots (two, although one is often hard to see) are visible between two larger dots. Queen chrysalis does not have these two dots. After exposure to many Monarch and Queen pupae, a slight difference in the curve at the bottom of the chrysalis becomes apparent.

In most cases, a Monarch chrysalis will be larger than a Queen chrysalis. If a Monarch caterpillar eats less than normal and a Queen caterpillar has food and to spare all until it becomes a chrysalis, a Queen chrysalis can be larger than the Monarch chrysalis.