Eastern tiger swallowtails–distinguishing females and males

Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus),


According to NABA-North Jersey Butterfly Club website, eastern tiger swallowtails are common and widespread in New Jersey. I saw 3 eastern tiger swallowtails in my garden the other day. That was a butterfly crowd. Purple coneflowers were the main attraction, but they also like butterfly weed, wild bergamot, and milkweed.


Eastern tiger swallowtails are large–nearly 5″, according to the NABA-North Jersey website. I’m not sure the ones I saw were quite that big. I’m a newcomer to butterfly photography. The first difficulty I encountered is the fact that butterflies light on a flower with full wingspread, and immediately close their wings to feed. It seems impossible to focus a shot fast enough to get a photo of a butterfly with wings widespread. Much easier to get the closed-up butterfly poses.

Larval food plants for eastern tiger swallowtails are black cherry trees and tuliptrees. The NABA North Jersey website mentioned above reports that both these trees are common native trees of upland deciduous forests. I don’t know of any black cherry trees or tuliptrees in this area, so that’s something to explore. Are they good trees for a small suburban lot such as mine. Can they be found in the local parks. I have to find out.


Thanks to the NABA-North Jersey website, I now know how to distinguish female from male eastern tiger swallowtails. Very exciting, especially when I have the photos to demonstrate my newfound knowledge. Female eastern tiger swallowtails have lovely blue markings near the base of their tails, as seen at left above. Males are black, seen at right. Pretty cool.

One Comment on “Eastern tiger swallowtails–distinguishing females and males

  1. Thank you for sharing your great photos!! I was just looking up whether the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that was just on our Butterfly Bush was male or female. It was a male! Thank you!!

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