Zebra Swallowtail: Comprehensive Guide for Enthusiasts

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The Zebra Swallowtail is a unique and fascinating butterfly that you might not know much about. Their unmistakable black and white stripes make them stand out from other butterflies, and their long hindwing tails add to their beauty. As you delve into the world of Zebra Swallowtails, you’ll find that they have some interesting characteristics to explore.

With a wingspan ranging between two and a half to four inches, the Zebra Swallowtail is a moderate-sized butterfly. Their pale green-white wings adorned with black stripes not only contribute to their distinctive appearance but also help them blend in with their surroundings in the wild. Additionally, their larvae are green with yellow and black bands, eventually growing into the beautiful butterflies you see.

As you continue learning about Zebra Swallowtails, you’ll discover their geographical distribution, preferred habitats, and the critical role they play in pollination. Understanding their life cycle and behavior can give you a deeper appreciation for these amazing creatures, and perhaps even inspire you to create a butterfly-friendly garden where you can observe them in their natural state.


The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly is a fascinating and beautiful species. Belonging to the kingdom Animalia and phylum Arthropoda, it is a member of the class Insecta and order Lepidoptera. As a part of the family Papilionidae, it is closely related to other swallowtail species.

Its scientific name has undergone some changes over the years. Previously known as Eurytides marcellus, it is now more commonly referred to as Protographium marcellus. This change represents a shift in the genus from Eurytides to Protographium.

Here are the key classification details for the Zebra Swallowtail:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Protographium
  • Species: P. marcellus

To summarize, the Zebra Swallowtail, or Protographium marcellus, is an elegant member of the butterfly world and holds a unique position within its family. With its distinct black and white stripes, it easily stands out among its fellow insects in the order Lepidoptera. So next time you spot a Zebra Swallowtail, take a moment to appreciate its remarkable classification journey.

Physical Description

Color and Pattern

The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly is an eye-catching creature with distinct black and white stripes on its wings, giving it its name. The body of the butterfly is predominantly black, while the wings have a greenish-white base color adorned with bold black stripes. The hindwings feature a striking red stripe along with blue spots near the tails. Caterpillars of this species have a bluish-green appearance with yellow and white bands running across the body.

Size and Shape

Zebra Swallowtail butterflies are medium-sized, with a wingspan ranging from 2.75 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm). Their wings have a unique triangular shape which sets them apart from other swallowtails. The hindwings are adorned with long tails that vary in length depending on the season.

In fact, there is a seasonal variation in the appearance of these butterflies:

  • Spring individuals have narrower black stripes and shorter tails.
  • Summer individuals have wider black stripes and longer tails.

Now you’re familiar with the distinguishing features of the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. Their striking black and white stripes, along with their uniquely shaped wings and tails, make them an unmistakable beauty in the natural world.

Life Cycle

From Egg to Caterpillar

The life cycle of the Zebra Swallowtail begins with the female butterfly laying small, green, spherical eggs on the leaves of a pawpaw plant, where the caterpillars will exclusively feed. These eggs soon hatch into bluish-green caterpillars with yellow and white bands across their bodies, as described by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The caterpillars go through a series of molts, growing in size. During this time, they feed on the leaves of the pawpaw plant, storing energy for the next phase of their life cycle.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

As the caterpillars continue to grow, they eventually form a chrysalis, or pupa, where they undergo the process of metamorphosis. The outer shell of the chrysalis is usually green or pale green, offering camouflage as a form of protection.

Once the metamorphosis is complete, the adult Zebra Swallowtail emerges from its chrysalis as a beautiful butterfly. The appearance of these butterflies varies slightly with the seasons. Spring forms of the Zebra Swallowtail have thinner black stripes, while the summer forms are larger with wider black stripes and longer tails.

Now as adult butterflies, they carry out the important task of pollination as they feed on nectar from flowers. They also search for mates to start the cycle all over again.

Habitat and Distribution

The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly is native to the United States, primarily found in the eastern regions. They are particularly common in the southeastern states, such as Florida. Their habitat usually consists of:

  • Wooded areas
  • Ridges
  • Stream valleys

In these areas, you can expect to find Zebra Swallowtails around their preferred host plants: the pawpaw tree. If you come across regions with a high density of pawpaw trees, chances are you might spot these unique butterflies.

Zebra Swallowtails can be found near rivers as well, as they depend on moist, sandy soil for laying their eggs. While their distribution primarily spans the eastern United States, you won’t find them in Canada as their range is limited to North America.

Make sure to keep an eye out for their striking black and white stripes and long hindwing tails when exploring their habitats. Moreover, bear in mind that individuals flying during the summer have wider stripes and longer tails than those found in spring.

Diet and Nutrition

Butterfly’s Diet

The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly primarily feeds on flower nectar, which provides them with essential nutrients such as amino acids and salts. Nectar is an important part of their diet, and you can often find them sipping it from a variety of flowers.

One interesting behavior of these butterflies is puddling. They can be found gathering around puddles or damp areas, seeking dissolved salts and other nutrients. Ingesting these salts helps to improve their overall health.

Caterpillar’s Diet

As for their caterpillar stage, the Zebra Swallowtail has a specific larval host plant – the pawpaw tree (Asimina angustifolia). Pawpaw leaves contain annonaceous acetogenins, which provide essential nutrients and also help protect the caterpillar from predators.

Caterpillar’s favorite host plants:

  • Pawpaw (Asimina angustifolia)
  • Other Asimina species

In summary:

Stage Main Food Source Additional Nutrients
Butterfly Flower nectar (amino acids, salts) Puddling (intake of salts & nutrients)
Caterpillar Pawpaw leaves (annonaceous acetogenins) Larval host plant’s benefits (nutrition, protection from predators)

By understanding the diet and nutrition of both the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly and its caterpillar stage, you can better appreciate their unique life cycle and the crucial role that their host plants play in their survival.

Behavior and Defense

The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly exhibits some interesting behaviors and defense mechanisms. One notable feature is its beautiful red spots and unique tail-like projections. These help in their defense by drawing predators’ attention away from their vital body parts.

Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars have a unique defense mechanism called the osmeterium. When threatened, they protrude a forked, fleshy organ that emits a foul-smelling substance. This helps deter potential predators like birds and spiders.

Caterpillars of this species can also display cannibalistic behavior. They may eat others in their group, particularly when food resources are scarce. This survival strategy ensures that at least some individuals have enough energy to transform into butterflies.

The defense mechanisms of the Zebra Swallowtail can be compared to the strategies of other swallowtail species, including:

  • Unique color patterns and wing shape for misdirection
  • Osmeterium for deterring predators
  • Cannibalistic behavior in caterpillars

By understanding these fascinating behaviors and defenses, you can appreciate the intricate survival strategies of the beautiful Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.

Conservation Status

The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) is a beautiful species with black and white stripes and long hindwing tails, making it distinct from other butterflies in North America 1. Although it isn’t considered rare, it’s essential to understand its conservation status.

As a butterfly enthusiast, you might be curious about the Zebra Swallowtail’s conservation status. Fortunately, it does not appear on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Birds of Conservation Concern 2021 report 2. This means that it is not currently considered a high conservation priority, which is excellent news for both you and the butterfly.

There are still many reasons for you to be mindful of the Zebra Swallowtail’s habitat and its importance in the ecosystem. As a pollinator, it plays a critical role in plant growth and reproduction 3. To ensure the ongoing survival of this and other butterfly species, you can take simple steps such as planting native wildflowers, providing clean water sources, and minimizing pesticide use in your garden.

Following these small steps, you can help support the Zebra Swallowtail’s habitat and contribute to the broader conservation efforts for pollinator species. Remember, a healthy ecosystem is essential for the survival of these beautiful butterflies and the plants they depend on.

Importance in Ecosystem

Zebra Swallowtails, as beautiful butterflies, play a crucial role in maintaining the health of ecosystems. They contribute to pollination while visiting various flowering plants to feed on nectar. In this process, they’re assisting in the reproduction of plants.


Apart from Zebra Swallowtails, other pollinators like moths, skippers, bees, and birds also help in plant pollination. Together, these creatures support the growth and reproduction of thousands of plant species. As a result, they’re indirectly involved in sustaining food chains and preserving diverse habitats for other animals.

Food Source

Zebra Swallowtails, along with other insects and moths, serve as a food source for various predators. Birds, spiders, and other larger insects rely on them as a vital part of their diets. This makes Zebra Swallowtails essential for maintaining a balanced ecosystem by preventing overpopulation of certain species.

Mating and Reproduction

Males and females of Zebra Swallowtails have unique behaviors. The males patrol their territories, looking for females to mate with, while the females focus on finding suitable host plants to lay their eggs. Each gender plays a critical part in ensuring the continuation of their species.


These butterflies have developed fascinating characteristics to aid their survival. For example, they have a long proboscis, which enables them to feed efficiently from flowers. Furthermore, their striking colors and patterns serve as a warning to predators of their unpalatability.

To sum up, Zebra Swallowtails play a vital role in ecosystems. They contribute to pollination, serve as a food source, and showcase unique adaptations that aid in their survival and reproduction. Every aspect of their existence impacts the balance and well-being of the natural world around them.

Guidance for Observers and Enthusiasts

To make the most of your Zebra Swallowtail observations, using a field guide will enrich your experience. This will help you identify their distinct characteristics. Here are a few pointers:

  • Make notes on their appearance.
  • Record the various seasonal forms you come across.
  • Observe their habitats and range.

Zebra Swallowtails go through two seasonal forms, so you can find some differences:

  • Spring Form: The tail is shorter, and the colors are more vibrant.
  • Summer Form: The tail is longer, and the colors may appear more faded.

To compare the seasonal forms, a table may be helpful:

Feature Spring Form Summer Form
Tail Length Shorter Longer
Color Vibrancy More Vibrant Slightly Faded

Now, let’s talk about the field guide essentials:

  • Use a guide that focuses on butterfly species native to your area.
  • Illustrations and photographs can be helpful for accurate identification.
  • A pocket-sized guide is convenient for carrying during your observation sessions.

In conclusion, taking note of the seasonal forms and using a field guide are crucial steps to enhance your Zebra Swallowtail observation experience. Keep it friendly and interesting as you narrate your observations, and don’t forget to enjoy the beauty of these fascinating creatures.


  1. https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/zebra_swallowtail.htm

  2. https://www.fws.gov/press-release/2021-06/us-fish-and-wildlife-service-publishes-birds-conservation-concern-2021

  3. https://www.fws.gov/story/2022-06/beautiful-zebra-swallowtail-butterfly

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Spruce Zebra Beetle emerges from Bar Top in Canada


Subject: Beetle ID
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
April 5, 2017 7:48 pm
Friend has a chore of planks of found wood that she is going to use as a bar top. She has heard gnoshing /scratching inside the plank. There are 3 holes in the plank. After 2 months the beetle pictured crawled out.
Signature: Tyler

Spruce Zebra Beetle, we presume

Dear Tyler,
Do you know if the wood was local and do you know the type of wood?  This is a Longhorned Borer Beetle or Longicorn in the family Cerambycidae.  We are quite certain it is in the tribe Clytini, and there are several similar looking genera on BugGuide, but our top choice for your species is the Spruce Zebra Beetle,
Xylotrechus undulatus.  The species is described on BugGuide as being “adult body length about 12 mm” and “Adult: black to dark brown or gray with white or pale yellow markings on elytra; antennae slightly shorter than elytra; anterior of pronotum with incomplete white or yellow collar (broken in dorsal midline); two pale transverse bands divide each elytron into three approximately equal portions, with the basal portion having a pale central patch; elytra may have whitish or pale gray shading, and posterior lateral corner of pronotum may be pale yellow.”  BugGuide also notes:  “larvae feed under the bark of spruce (Picea spp.) and other conifers” so if the wood was pine or spruce or some other coniferous tree, that would lend credibility to the species identification.  Other possibilities include Xylotrechus longitarsis which is “probably synonymous with X. undulatus” according to BugGuide and the Banded Ash Borer, Neoclytus caprea, which according to BugGuide is found as far north as Idaho, meaning the wood might not have been local.  Additionally, BugGuide notes the species feeds on hardwoods including “sapwood of ash, sometimes oak, hickory” and that “often emerges indoors from firewood; sawlogs may become infested within 20 days of felling during summer.”  Our money is still on the Spruce Zebra Beetle.

Thankyou, I think you have got it. The wood is Spruce.

Letter 2 – Mating Zebra Longwings


Subject: Bug Love- Mating Zebra Longwings
Location: Orlando, Florida
December 2, 2012 1:58 am
Hi Daniel and team. My husband got this shot when he was watching one of our zebra longwings (the Florida state butterfly)emerge from it’s chrysalis. He couldn’t believe his eyes when the other one flew up and started mating with it. We’ve noticed some of the butterflies coming around the cocoons trolling for mates. But, we also saw one of the trollers frantically knock a newly emerged one off it’s cocoon and onto the ground. We were wondering, do males fight each other? We know now to keep other butterflies away from fresh ones until they’re wings are hard. Anyway, enjoy the pic from Florida, the state of the year round butterflies.
Signature: Elizabeth

Mating Zebra Longwings

Hi Elizabeth,
Thanks so much for sending your photo of mating Zebra Longwings.  We don’t normally think of butterflies as being aggressive, however, males of some species will defend territory.  We will try to research this a bit more.

Letter 3 – Mating Zebra Swallowtails


zebra swallowtails mating
Here is a picture of a pair of zebra swallowtails mating for your bug love page.

Hi Kevin,
Thanks you for sending us a truly lovely image. Our readership does enjoy and benefit from other relevant details, including location.

Sorry, I meant to send that too. They were found in southeast Missouri. Glad you enjoyed them as much as I did.

Were they photographed yesterday? Last year? Five years ago?

They were photographed April 23, 2008.

Letter 4 – Mexican Kite Swallowtail


Subject: Black and transparent butterfly
Location: Tulum, Mexico
July 17, 2013 2:49 pm
Hello! While in tulum, Mexico in July of 2013, I saw this butterfly. It was transparent with black markings and very long sword like tails on its wings. There were no other colors present on the wings, only black. The wing shape was elongated. I managed to snap a picture of it and am hoping you can help me identify it. Thank you!
Signature: Olivia

Mexican Kite Swallowtail
Mexican Kite Swallowtail

Dear Olivia,
This gorgeous butterfly is a Mexican Kite Swallowtail,
Eurytides epidaus, and you can see additional images of it on iNaturalist and Butterflies of America.  Sadly, the instagram filter you used has obscured much of the natural beauty of this lovely butterfly.  Instagram images are not ideal for capturing specimens for identification because of the distortion that some people find artistic.  

Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. I chose to use the filter because the picture was very overexposed straight out of camera and the filter helped to show the contrast of the black and clear wings better, as it was very difficult to see in the original also because of the asphalt in the background that the butterfly was standing on. The filter to me made it look more the way I saw it in real life. My mom was wondering what kind if butterfly it was so I’ll be happy to be able to tell her.
Thanks for responding so quickly!

Letter 5 – Roosting Zebra Longwings and probably Mating Anticipation


What are these zebra butterflies doing?
These zebra butterflies have been here all day, I thought they were just mating. But then my son looked closer and saw there is a pupa in the middle of the group of butterflies. I took some photos, to see the pupa, I had to shoot into the sun. I am guessing they may be shading the pupa or its just a coincidence. I will check tomorrow morning and see what is going on. A few weeks ago I saw a zebra butterfly that had just metamorphosed into an adult and another butterfly was already trying to mate with her, she had not even dried out yet. So I am wondering if these are all males waiting for a female to mature. Attached also is a group of butterflies ready for bed, they sleep all together under the cedar tree and another group sleep under a palm. I have counted over 80 butterflies in the two groups. I believe the reason there are so many is because we have a lot of wild passionflower vine this year. Best Wishes,
Lori McNamara

Hi Lori,
The first thought that went to our mind when we saw this incredible aggregation of Zebra Longwings, Heliconius charithonia, was similar to your thought of males eager to mate with a soon to hatch female. Research on BugGuide indicates a different scenario. According to BugGuide, the Zebra Longwing: “is very gregarious as an adult, roosting in the exact same location for weeks or even months. They have great preference for roosting on dead of leafless branches. ”

Hi, No they are not roosting in the first two photos, zeb1 and 2. The third photo is where they are roosting. They have roosted for years not months in those locations. They roost at night. There are no pupas where they roost. Also they roost with their wings shut. Some of the butterflies around the pupa had their wings open, it is in the daytime. Attached are two more photos taken this morning. The butterflies are all flying about, except for this one clinging to the un-metamorphosed pupa. There were more but I disturbed them when I was taking photos. They are in a very overgrown area with lots of vines. Best Wishes,
Lori McNamara

Hi again Lori,
We were unaware of the roosting aggregations of Zebra Longwings before researching your query. Now we realize that you submitted images of the roosting as well as the mysterious interest they have in the chrysalis. We would put money on the awaiting to mate scenario. We would discount the shading the chrysalis from the sun scenario as being a bit too altruistic for a butterfly. Thanks for the great images.

Letter 6 – Zebra Caterpillar and Meadow full of Butterflies in Canada


manitoba caterpillar with 3 possible ids, and a wonderful evening of butterflies
September 12, 2011
Hello there.  Here’s a pic of a long and skinny little guy/gal which we found in abundance during last Saturday, in the area of Oak Hammock Marsh – a wildlife preserve/marsh habitat near Winnipeg in Manitoba.  Along the narrow trail we’d encounter one or two crossing the way every metre or so (and boy are they quick) – we had to walk very carefully.
Incidently, the butterflies we encountered in the same area were exclusively white, with and without spots (not sure which variety) with a sprinkling of sulphurs.  All were around 1-1.5 inch in width.  It was a warm and breezy evening, almost sunset, and the flutter of their little wings tickled us as we disturbed them from the yellow and purple clovers still blooming on the trail.  There were thousands and, like we were in some dream, we lifted our arms up to touch them – it was heavenly….
Therefore, I also send a pic of the trail we were on.  You can see the butterflies – though none of my pictures from that day really do the abundance any justice….
My caterpillar ID tries came to 3 possibles:
Anthocharis midea
Cucullia alfarata
Trichordestra legitima
…..I’m not sure it’s any of these because they all lack the pattern between the stripes.
Another caterpillar breeding in this area regularly and on the same trail that day was the woolly bear – the one with the red/brown band in the middle.  But, it was tiny and we saw only one. (can you tell us what the 2 red things are in the front of it’s face?)
Thank you kindly bug guys,

Zebra Caterpillar

Dear M.M.,
We can’t imagine how long you spent online to get three species that are similar looking, but not exact matches to your Zebra Caterpillar,
Melanchra picta, which we initially posted nearly a year ago.  According to BugGuide:  “larvae feed on alfalfa, cabbage, carrot, clover, dandelion, dock (Rumex spp.), pea, pigweed (Amaranthus spp.), strawberry, sweetfern, blackberry, blueberry, hazel, apple, birch, cherry, plum, willow.”  That is a lovely meadow for butterflies.  The blossoms are not very showy, but they are just the type of flowers that butterflies are really attracted to for nectaring.

Meadow with Butterflies

Thank you – seemingly now the answer is everywhere….duh!  I guess I’m not the only one up at night looking up bugs…  Obviously my research needs some work. 🙁
Thank you kindly, it’s always good to have that ID, even if it’s something obvious to others.  I kept saying to myself – “it looks like a zebra…..”
Yes, the marsh and trails were wonderful, though the marsh has really dried up to 2/3rd’s it’s size due to the constant heat and little rain we’ve been having.  Alot of it is now just a bog, and the birds are standing in the little water that is left.  But, I’m sure that will change as we usually get some good rain in the fall here.
The Tiger Moth I had already knew from previous “successful” research, but the red things must be mites…

Isabella Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Hi again MM,
WE aren’t certain what is on the Woolly Bear of the Isabella Tiger Moth.  Perhaps they are mites, but we are more inclined to think they might be the pupae of some parasite.

Letter 7 – Zebra Swallowtail


Zebra Swallowtail
I can’t tell you how valuable your site has been to me the past couple of months. I do volunteer work for the Missouri Conservation Department, and I am putting an insect collection together to be used in their exhibit room for educational purposes with school children as well as the general public. I have been able to accurately identify many of the species I’ve found. Thank you, and keep up the good work. I’ve enclosed a picture of a Zebra Swallowtail I took recently. I thought you might want to add it to your site, as I only seen one other one posted. Use it as you wish.
Savannah, MO

Hi Shelly,
Your letter was sent during our severe technical problem. Now we are trying to answer some of the letters that are backlogged. We opened yours as soon as we read the subject line and are thrilled to have your spectacular photo of this most beautiful butterfly.

Letter 8 – Zebra Swallowtail


zebra swallowtail
I didn’t see a photo of a zebra swallowtail, so I’m sending you this one. Thanks for keeping up such a great site.

Hi again Tim,
Thanks for sending in the great photo, we cropped and rotated it to maximize its size on our site. We will also post a like to your site, www.wildlifetheater.com so you will get some additional traffic.

Letter 9 – Zebra Swallowtail


Zebra Swallowtail?
Saw this in my back yard here in Baltimore, MD for the first time this year. Is this a Zebra Swallowtail?

Hi Donna,
Congratulations on your first sighting of a Zebra Swallowtail.

Letter 10 – Zebra Swallowtail


I`m trying to find out what the name of this is, I have been searching for pics of it, havent found it yet. I`m in central Missouri and took pic in a local state park. Can you help?
Rhonda Mulanax

Hi Rhonda,
This gorgeous butterfly is a Zebra Swallowtail.

Letter 11 – Zebra Swallowtail


Can you please identify this moth I saw in my Southwest Missouri garden?

This is not a moth. Your graceful butterfly is a Zebra Swallowtail.

Letter 12 – Zebra Swallowtail


Some Type of Swallowtail Maybe??
Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 11:13 AM
This pretty butterfly was resting on damp fur this morning and it was such a pretty shade of mint green I had to grab the camera. It had extensions on the tail similar to yellow swallowtails (we have a bunch of those right now) but he/she was much prettier. It would not spread its wings very much for me but it did have red markings near the abdomen on the wings. I live in Eastern Tennessee and today is a nice warm, sunny day. Many butterflies are fluttering about. Anyway, I’d like to know what this little guy/gal is.
Pam Balog
eastern tennessee

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Hi Pam,
What beautiful photos of a Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, puddling. Male Zebra Swallowtails take fluids from wet sand and it is believed that they need necessary minerals and electrolytes, and this is a convenient way for them to imbibe them.

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Letter 13 – Zebra Swallowtail


What kind of butterfly is this?
Mon, Jun 15, 2009 at 7:01 AM
I just found this butterfly in our front yard today. I’ve never seen one like it around here. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Cincinnati, Ohio

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Dear Karen,
In our opinion, the Zebra Swallowtail is the most elegant of the North American Swallowtails, a family graced with numerous lovely species.

Letter 14 – Zebra Swallowtail


White butterfly with black stripes
December 24, 2009
Just wanted you to confirm that this is a zebra swallowtail. If it isn’t please identify it for me. It sure likes my G.G. Gerbing Azaleas.
Thanks. Leslie
Saing Francisville, LA

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Hi Leslie,
This is a Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, which is well represented on BugGuide.  It is the only species in the genus found in the U.S., with the exception of the darker Dark Kite Swallowtail, Eurytides philolaus, which rarely flies in Southern Texas.

Letter 15 – Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillars


I didn’t see these caterpillars on your site…
I’ve been able to identify many bugs from your site, thanks. But these two, which were both crawling on the same plant, I can’t find on your site. I was happy to find one in the bushes and even happier to see two at the same time! I was wondering if they might belong to the same family. They look similar to a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar you have posted, but the color patterns are different. Maybe one is a male and the other a female?? I’m located in northern Florida, next to the south GA border. I just found them today (9/17/07). Thanks,

Hi Ann,
You couldn’t find your Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar, Eurytides marcellus, on our website because your photo is the first we have received of Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillars. The food plant is listed as pawpaw, and the leaves on the plant in your photo look considerably thinner than the leaves in the photos on BugGuide.

Letter 16 – Zebra Swallowtails: Mud Puddle Party


Camera Shy Butterfly
Hi Bugman,
Thank you for identifying my moth for me. I recently read a one of your postings that said you were having trouble photographing the elusive Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. I happened to see about 20 of them on the shoreline of Lake Berkley in Tennessee. These big beauties wouldn’t leave me alone. They kept landing on my shirt and flying into my face while I was trying to fish. One of them caught me off gaurd and "buzzed my tower," which led to me smacking myself in the face and losing my sunglasses into the lake! I didn’t catch any fish, but I did get some nice photos. These butterflies seem to love the swampy shoreline. I tried to get as many into one shot as I could, but the best I could do was four (second photo). Anyway, just thought you might enjoy the pictures.
Adam in Tennessee

Hi Adam,
Thank you so much for sending us your gorgeous photos and wonderful account of the experience. These are Zebra Swallowtails, not Tiger Swallowtails. The Puddling behavior you witnessed is something certain male butterflies do shortly after emerging from the chrysalis. They are thought to injest necessary minerals while Puddling.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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