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Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio glaucus glaucus Linnaeus, 1758

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Adult male photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult yellow female photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult dark female photo (Click to enlarge)
Distribution Map
Ohio county distribution
Records by Month
Flight period (Temporal distribution)

STATUS: Resident; common.

DISTRIBUTION/RANGE: Statewide (see map).

HABITAT: This butterfly is found almost anywhere that there is deciduous forest. Although it is most frequently encountered in wooded areas, it can be a common sight in old fields, clover and alfalfa fields, and in city yards and gardens.

HOSTPLANT(S): In Ohio, this species has been recorded feeding on ash (John W. Peacock, pers comm, 1989), tulip tree, and sassafras. It has also been reported from wild black cherry (Ray W. Bracher, pers comm, 1987) and prickly ash (Studebaker and Studebaker, 1967). This butterfly undoubtedly uses a number of other broad-leaved trees and shrubs in Ohio.

ADULT ENERGY RESOURCES: Alfalfa, red clover, rue-anemone, dandelion, common blue phlox, common milkweed, butterfly-weed, Joe-Pye weed, spotted Joe-Pye weed, redbud, ironweed, teasel, Canada thistle, swamp thistle, thistle, dame's rocket, Indian hemp, rosin-weed, purple coneflower, ragwort, hawthorn, lilac, and garden flowers such as impatiens, violets, periwinkle, and garden phlox. Adults also imbibe moisture from damp soil, mud and sand, feces, carrion, and urine deposits. Adults often congregate in large numbers at puddles along woodland roads, especially in the spring.

FLIGHT PERIOD: Two broods, with an occasional partial third in southern Ohio (see graph). Extreme dates range from 24 March to 24 September.

SIMILAR SPECIES: Dark females are superficially similar to female Spicebush Swallowtails (Papilio troilus), but referral to the photos will allow easy separation of these two species.

GENERAL COMMENTS: This is one of our most common and conspicuous species. The females are dimorphic, occurring as yellow or black phenotypes. The black phenotype is generally assumed to be a mimic of the unpalatable Pipevine Swallowtail. By resembling this species, female P. glaucus may be avoided by predators, and hence protected from them to a certain degree. However, males may not recognize black females as potential mates as easily as they recognize yellow females (Bums, 1966b). Hence, neither form has a clearcut evolutionary advantage over the other, and they coexist in a balanced equilibrium (the black females partially protected from predators, and the yellow females better able to attract males with which to mate). In Ohio, dark females are most common in the southern counties, where they predominate. The yellow females become progressively more common northward, and in the extreme north seem to comprise more than half the population. Occasionally, intermediate females are found. Scriber and Evans (1986[87]) have studied the genetics of the black/yellow females extensively, and have discovered genetic abnormalities in one southern Ohio population.

There is pronounced seasonal variation in this species. Spring brood adults are gencrally smaller. Occasional individuals may be only half the size of typical adults. Late summer adults are often very large, sometimes with a deep orange-yellow ground color resembling individuals of Papilio glaucus australis Maynard, 1891, from the Gulf Coast, suggesting that this is a temperature induced phenotype.

In forests, the tiger swallowtail is a true canopy (treetop) flyer, and can be seen sailing and gliding around treetops, often descending into small sunlit openings. In more open areas, this species flies closer to the ground with a fast direct flight that can make it very difficult to capture. However, both sexes avidly visit flowers and can be easily observed while they are taking nectar.


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