20 Species of Swallowtail Butterfly

Embrace beauty in diversity as you delve into the colorful world of 20 swallowtail butterfly species.

Get introduced to unique varieties, from the Eastern Tiger to the Scarce Swallowtail.

Uncover their distinctive features, habitats, and behaviors in this informative journey into the realm of these stunning creatures.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, or Papilio glaucus, is an enchanting sight you’re sure to appreciate, should you be lucky enough to see one.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These beauties are native to the eastern United States, prevalent especially in forests and meadow areas.
  • Appearance: They sport dazzling yellow bodies adorned with black stripes, providing a stunning tiger-like contrast.
  • Size: They span between 3.1 to 5.5 inches (approximately 80 to 140 mm), making them quite formidable in size.
  • Diet: As adults, their diet consists mainly of nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: The females lay singular eggs on host plants, which soon become munching caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: From egg to butterfly, their lifespan is about a month.
  • Host Plants: They are partial to the leaves of a wide range of trees, like wild cherry, willow, and poplar.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a large and impressive butterfly, whose life cycle elegantly illustrates the magic of nature.

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

The Western Tiger Swallowtail is a dazzling example of swallowtail butterflies.

Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Primarily found in the Western United States, this species prefers riparian areas, canyons, and parks.
  • Appearance: It is known for its yellow and black patterned wings, with a striking series of blue and orange spots running along the edges.
  • Size: This butterfly measures between 3 to 4 inches in wingspan (7.5 to 10 centimeters), making it a medium to large-sized specimen.
  • Diet: The adults feed on nectar from a range of flowers, while caterpillars munch on the leaves of deciduous trees.
  • Reproduction: The female lays single, spherical eggs on host plant leaves, which later hatch into colorful caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Usually lasting 10 to 12 days, the short lifespan is typical among swallowtail butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Primary host plants include willows, poplars, and cottonwoods, providing ample food for their larvae stages. This close relationship with host plants makes them vital for maintaining biodiverse ecosystems.

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

Anise Swallowtail is a fascinating species of butterfly that you’ll find enchanting.

anise swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These fluttering beauties are native to North America and favor forests, fields, and open areas.
  • Appearance: Sporting cream-colored stripes on a black base, these butterflies have a distinctive appearance. The caterpillar is primarily black with dots of yellow and has an enlarged orange and black head.
  • Size: A mature Anise Swallowtail has a wingspan that spans from 2.4 to 4 inches (6.1 to 10.2 cm) width.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they consume anise, dill, parsley, and fennel. The adults, on the other hand, dine on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her pale yellow eggs on the host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars after about ten days.
  • Lifespan: Remarkably, they can live up to a year, giving you ample time to admire their beauty.
  • Host Plants: Anise Swallowtails primarily use plants in the carrot family, like anise, dill, and fennel, as their host bases.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail butterfly is an interesting species worth exploring.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Found across North America, these butterflies prefer open areas like fields, suburbs, marshes and deserts.
  • Appearance: As the name suggests, they possess a striking black hue, adorned with light colored bands and spots.
  • Size: Their wingspan extends from 3.1 to 4.3 inches (80-110mm), a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults mostly feed on nectar from flowers while the caterpillars enjoy leaves of various plant species.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical and cream-colored eggs, almost 200 at a time, on select plants.
  • Lifespan: They live approximately two weeks, enough time for mating and egg-laying.
  • Host Plants: They mainly prefer plants from carrot family, such as Queen Anne’s lace, parsley or dill.

The Black Swallowtail butterfly, with its striking coloration and interesting life history, is a notable species in the swallowtail family.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a captivating specimen that stands out due to its unique qualities. This butterfly is specially known for its startling iridescent blue hind wings.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find Pipevine Swallowtails throughout the United States, Central America, and northern parts of South America. They typically dwell in moist and open regions.
  • Appearance: They showcase a magnificent black body with iridescent blue or blue-green hind wings. Females are less colorful, having more subtle blue coloring.
  • Size: These butterflies range from three to three and a half inches (approximately 7.5 to 9 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed mainly on nectar from various flowers such as thistles, milkweeds, and azaleas.
  • Reproduction: Females lay small, reddish-brown eggs on the pipevine plant, from which their caterpillars will feed.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live 2-4 weeks. However, chrysalis stage can survive winter months, prolonging the cycle.
  • Host Plants: Aristolochia species, primarily California pipevine, are the preferred feeding source for the caterpillars.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is a butterfly you’ll easily fall in love with. A North American native, it can be found flitting in deciduous woodlands and gardens with equal grace.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: The butterflies have taken up residence in North American deciduous woodlands.
  • Appearance: At first glance, they’re black. After a closer look, you’ll notice that irresistible blue sheen they’re known for. A row of bright blue spots are tucked on the hind wings.
  • Size: They’re a decent size. Their wingspan averages around 3.5 to 4 inches (8.9 to 10.16 cm).
  • Diet: As grown-ups, they go for flower nectar. The young ones enjoy spicebush leaves.
  • Reproduction: They lay greenish-yellow eggs singly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: It takes about 3-4 weeks for the butterfly to complete the egg-to-adult journey.
  • Host Plants: The larvae favor plants in the laurel family, specifically the spicebush and sassafras.

Capture their luminescent beauty in your heart and they’ll be your butterfly crush forever.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) is considered the largest butterfly in North America.

giant swallowtail butterfly

Here is what you need to know about this majestic creature:

  • Habitat: Found in various environments, from tropical regions to deciduous forests.
  • Appearance: Has yellow bands on a black background which form an ‘X’ when wings are spread. Has a striking blue area near the tail and a bright reddish spot in the corner.
  • Size: Has a wingspan of about 4 – 5.5 inches (10 – 14 cm).
  • Diet: The caterpillars feed on citrus plants while adults sip nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical, yellowish eggs on citrus leaves, which hatch after 10-12 days.
  • Lifespan: Adults can live for around two weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: They frequently choose citrus trees such as Lime, Lemon, and Orange which give them their citrusy distinct smell. Other plants include rue, prickly ash, and hop tree.

Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) is a unique butterfly that catches your attention with its distinctive pattern.

This swallowtail is typically observed in Eastern North America.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers wooded areas, near streams or rivers.
  • Appearance: Bright white wings with black stripes, hence the name ‘Zebra’. Its hind wings have two distinct, elongated tails.
  • Size: Wingspan can range from 2.7 to 4 inches, or about 6.8 to 10 cm.
  • Diet: The caterpillar feeds on Paw Paw tree leaves, while the adults enjoy nectar from different flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the leaves of host plants, usually in the spring and summer.
  • Lifespan: It ranges from 6 to 14 weeks, much longer than most butterflies.
  • Host Plants: The only host plant for the Zebra Swallowtail is the Paw Paw tree (Asimina triloba). The caterpillars are quite particular with their diet.

These traits make the Zebra Swallowtail a truly unique kind of swallowtail butterfly.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

The Two-tailed Swallowtail, scientifically known as Papilio multicaudata, is a remarkable member of the Swallowtail family.

This splendid butterfly is quite popular for its striking features and unique attributes.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

  • Habitat: Primarily found in the West of North America, they are quite common in open woodlands, streamsides, and suburban areas.
  • Appearance: Unmistakable due to its yellow and black patterned wings, with each hind wing boasting two distinct tails.
  • Size: This bug can impress you with its size, wing spans usually ranging from 3.5 to 5 inches (9 to 13 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adults enjoy nectar from a variety of plants like milkweed and thistle.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, round, pale-green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult two-tailed swallowtails usually live for about a month.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include chokecherry, hop tree, and ash.

From their distinctive appearance to their fascinating life cycle, the Two-tailed Swallowtail is certainly a species to be revered.

Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes)

The Palamedes Swallowtail is a unique butterfly species that adds beauty to thriving ecosystems.

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly commonly inhabits warm, wet forests in the southeast U.S, especially along the Gulf Coast.
  • Appearance: It has a dark brown to black color. The wing sides have a thin yellow stripe, with tiny yellow dots on the edges.
  • Size: They’re impressively large, ranging from 3.5 to 5.5 inches (8.9 to 14 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies mainly feed on nectar of flowers while larvae eat leaves of specific host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay singly on host plants. The caterpillars live in folded leaf shelters.
  • Lifespan: Generally, they live up to about a month. Larvae stages can take about 4 weeks before they pupate.
  • Host Plants: They notably prefer to lay their eggs on Redbay and other plants in the Laurel family.

This species is an inspiring example for biodiversity and should be protected.

Chinese Yellow Swallowtail (Papilio xuthus)

The Chinese Yellow Swallowtail, also known as the Asian Swallowtail or Xuthus Swallowtail, is a magnificent butterfly species native to East Asia.

Chinese Yellow Swallowtail (Papilio xuthus)

  • Habitat: You’ll find this butterfly in areas ranging from China to Hawaii, even occasionally in North America.
  • Appearance: Spot it with ease due to its vibrant yellow wings adorned with black stripes and blue and orange spots on the lower wings.
  • Size: This species has an impressive wingspan of about 3.1 – 4.3 inches (80 – 110 mm), making it a relatively large butterfly.
  • Diet: The adult Chinese Yellow Swallowtail has a taste for nectar from various flowers, while caterpillars feed on the leaves of citrus plants.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay their spherical, yellow eggs on citrus plants.
  • Lifespan: The average life span for adult butterflies is approximately one month long.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include lemon, lime, and other citrus trees. These play a pivotal role in their life cycle, providing sustenance for the larval stage.

Great Mormon Swallowtail (Papilio memnon)

The Great Mormon Swallowtail is a stimulating spectacle for any butterfly enthusiast. Originating from Asia, this species is renowned for its striking patterns and versatility in adapting to diverse environments.

Great Mormon Swallowtail (Papilio memnon)

  • Habitat: The Great Mormon commonly inhabits forests, gardens, and leafy urban areas.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts an enchanting blue-black color, adorned with red and white spots.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 4.7-5.9 inches (approximately 12-15 cm), it is quite a large specimen.
  • Diet: Nectars of a variety of flowering plants satiate this beauty’s appetite.
  • Reproduction: In a single brood, females can lay between 100-200 eggs.
  • Lifespan: They generally live up to 9 months – a grand age in the butterfly timeline.
  • Host Plants: Citrus plants, such as Lime and Rue are their primary choice for laying eggs and as food for their larvae. The survival and prosperity of the Great Mormon is a testament to its resilience and adaptability.

Orchard Swallowtail (Papilio aegeus)

Commonly referred to as the Orchard Swallowtail, this butterfly holds the scientific name, Papilio aegeus. It can be easily recognized by its mesmerizing black and white patterned wings.

Orchard Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Orchards, gardens, and woody areas are popular for this species. If you’re in Australia, you might see one fluttering around!
  • Appearance: Distinct black and white wings make it stand out. Females showcase red spots on their undersides, adding an extra pop of color.
  • Size: Adult butterflies stretch from 2.7 to 3.5 inches (7 to 9 cm) in length. This makes them one of the largest butterflies in their native region.
  • Diet: Nectar drinkers, they enjoy it from flowers. As caterpillars, their go-to is citrus tree leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on suitable host plants, leading to a lifecycle of egg, caterpillar, pupa, then butterfly.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle completes in about 6 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars prefer citrus family plants, like oranges or lemons, for growth before metamorphosis.

Lime Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus)

The Lime Swallowtail is a versatile and adaptive butterfly, thriving in a variety of habitats.

Lime Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus)

  • Habitat: Lime Swallowtails are native to Asia and Australia but have expanded their territory to Africa and the Americas.
  • Appearance: The Lime Swallowtail is eye-catching, with a white or pale yellow body speckled with black, and a series of black and blue spots on the wings.
  • Size: They are mid-sized, having a wingspan between 80-100mm (3.1-3.9 inches).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they chiefly feed on citrus plants. Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of a wide variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Lime Swallowtails can lay up to 100 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch into caterpillars after just a few days.
  • Lifespan: The Lime Swallowtail has a lifespan of approximately one month in the wild.
  • Host Plants: As caterpillars, they prefer citrus plants, but they are known for their adaptability and can feed on a wide range of host plants.

Crimson Rose Swallowtail (Pachliopta hector)

The Crimson Rose Swallowtail is an awe-inspiring species, quite popular among butterfly enthusiasts. Known scientifically as Pachliopta hector, this butterfly is utterly unique.

crimson rose butterfly

Let’s take a deep dive to learn more about the Crimson Rose Swallowtail!

  • Habitat: Primarily, they inhabit the coastal regions as well as the wooded hills of southern India and Sri Lanka.
  • Appearance: True to its name, it boasts a lovely pattern of bright red and black on its wings, making it easy to spot.
  • Size: It is quite large, with a wingspan measuring approximately 3.75 to 4.25 inches (9.5 to 10.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their spherical, yellow eggs on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from a few weeks to a couple of months, like most butterflies.
  • Host Plants: The most common host plants for the larvae are Aristolochia species.

Emerald Swallowtail (Papilio palinurus)

This lush butterfly, the Emerald Swallowtail, inhabits Southeast Asia. You’ll find it in lush woodland or dense jungle territories.

Emerald Swallowtail (Papilio palinurus)

  • Habitat: The Emerald Swallowtail adores humid and hot locales, often visible fluttering in the Southeast Asian jungles.
  • Appearance: Its name refers to its striking, green-banded wings. Additionally, its body presents interesting wave-like patterns in sunlight.
  • Size: Grown adults boast a wingspan of around 3.5-4 inches (8-10 centimeters).
  • Diet: They feed mostly on nectar from vibrant flowers. Caterpillars favor citrus plant leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on citrus tree leaves. This is crucial as the caterpillars, once hatched, use these leaves for sustenance.
  • Lifespan: The adult Emerald Swallowtail’s life lasts around 6-8 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Citrus plants, particularly those in the Rutaceae family, serve as host plants for caterpillars during their growth phase.

That’s the beautiful Emerald Swallowtail for you. It truly is a breath-taking sight that adds vibrant hues to its surrounding environment.

Southern Swallowtail (Papilio alexanor)

The Southern Swallowtail is a captivating creature. Rare to spot, this butterfly is a delight for many butterfly enthusiasts.

Southern Swallowtail (Papilio alexanor)

  • Habitat: This butterfly occupies the Mediterranean regions, often fluttering in meadows and light woodland.
  • Appearance: Its upper wings have a primary black color with small white spots, while the lower wings are adorned by red and blue spots.
  • Size: A fully grown Southern Swallowtail ranges around 3.5 inches (9 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: They feed on nectar from various flowers, including purple knapweed and wild marjoram.
  • Reproduction: Southern Swallowtails lay their eggs singularly on host plants. By the end of summer, new butterflies emerge.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from 2-4 weeks lived mostly on the wing.
  • Host Plants: They primarily choose Artemisia and Ferula plants.

Also known as the “Alexanor,” this elusive butterfly inspires many with its brief but vibrant life.

Thoas Swallowtail (Papilio thoas)

Meet the Thoas Swallowtail, a large, appealing butterfly species.

Thoas Swallowtail (Papilio thoas)

  • Habitat: This species dwells mainly in tropical environments, particularly Central and South America. It favors rainforests, but you can also spot it in human-modified landscapes.
  • Appearance: Thoas Swallowtail is prized for its dark-brown to black wings adorned with a vibrant series of yellow bands and spots.
  • Size: On average, the wingspan of this butterfly ranges from 10 to 13 cm (approximately 3.9 to 5.1 inches).
  • Diet: As an adult, Thoas feeds mostly on nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants. The larvae, on the other hand, prefer the leaves of citrus plants.
  • Reproduction: Thoas Swallowtails lay their spherical, creamy white eggs on the leaves of host plants. And their greenish-yellow caterpillars grow through a series of molts, called instars.
  • Lifespan: Typically, the lifespan of adult Thoas Swallowtails is around 7 to 11 days.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plants include those from the citrus family, such as orange and lemon trees.

Ulysses Swallowtail (Papilio ulysses)

The Ulysses Swallowtail stars as an amazing spectacle in the butterfly world. This king among butterflies presents entrancing drift in various habitats.

Ulysses Butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll mainly find them in Australia’s tropical rainforests, Tasmania, and parts of Indonesia and islands in the south-west Pacific. They love warm, tropical environments.
  • Appearance: They’re known for their striking blue wings with a black trim. Males are more vibrantly colored than females.
  • Size: They are relatively large – boasting a wingspan around 5.5 inches (140 mm).
  • Diet: Nectar from flowering plants composes their primary diet. But their sweet tooth also craves ripe fruit.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single pale-green eggs on the new growth of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Overall, they live about 16 to 30 days from the time of emerging as adults.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae primarily feed on the Euodia tree and other Rutaceae family species. They’re particularly fond of pink flowering Euodia.

This beautiful species has indeed earned its place on any fan’s butterfly list.

Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

First of all, let’s discuss the Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius). This fascinating creature is not as “scarce” as the name might suggest.

scarce swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll often find it fluttering around temperate regions in central and southern Europe, and across Asia to Japan.
  • Appearance: Admirably, this butterfly boasts creamy white wings adorned with black tiger-like stripes and striking blue and orange spots.
  • Size: It’s rather large, typically stretching between 2.6 to 3.1 inches (65 to 80mm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies subsist primarily on nectar from a variety of colourful flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs, usually singularly on the undersides of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Remarkably, the Scarce Swallowtail can live 1-2 months- that’s quite a long time in butterfly terms!
  • Host Plants: Finally, caterpillars prefer to feed on Rosaceae family plants, particularly those like hawthorn and blackthorn.

Now that we’ve covered one beautiful species, let’s move on to the other fascinating swallowtail butterflies.


In exploring these 20 species of Swallowtail Butterflies, they’ve certainly captured your attention by their unassailable beauty and fascinating characteristics.

As you delve deeper into their world, you’ll discover more about their unique behavior, lifecycle, and role in the ecosystem.

Feel free to share your thoughts and any personal encounters with these mesmerizing creatures in the comment section below.

Butterflies   Updated: July 5, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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