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Back You are here: Home Features Events and Features Life on the Island Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Nominated to be named as a N.C. State Symbol

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Nominated to be named as a N.C. State Symbol

Why nominate the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly?
Approximately 175 species of butterflies are known to reside in North Carolina.  Most of these breed in our state while some breed elsewhere and migrate into the state. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one of the most recognized and commonly seen species due to its size and beauty. With a wingspan of 3 to 5.5 inches, bright yellow color with black tiger stripes, it commands our attention. In the central and western parts of the state the female swallowtail can be dark with a bit of yellow with blue on her hind wings or yellow with black stripes and blue on the hind wings, while the male is always yellow with black stripes and less blue on the hind wings. It should be noted that the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is found in all 100 counties of NC and is an easy butterfly to identify for the experienced butterflier, gardener, or a casual spectator, making it a natural selection to be the North Carolina State Butterfly Symbol.
Where does the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail live?
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail does not favor one county over another.  Common habitats include along the edges of deciduous or mixed woods, fields, rivers, creeks, roadsides, and gardens. They prefer open areas rather that shady areas.  Because it has adapted to many different habitats and host plants it is not considered threatened.
What does the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail eat?
Remember that butterflies must eat in two different stages of their life one being a caterpillar and another as a butterfly. As a caterpillar they feed on specific plants including Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), and Sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana). Nectar plants for the adult butterfly are very widespread, but the species prefers tall herbs such as Joe-pye-weed (Eupatorium spp.), ironweed (Vernonia spp.) and milkweed (Asclepias spp.). You will also find them sipping water and minerals from mud and possibly on dung and carrion.
When is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail visible?
The butterfly flies from Spring to Fall producing two to three broods in a year. Males are often seen flying high in search of females while females search out specific plants to lay their eggs. Their flight period ranges from early March to early October.  In the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, the butterflies can be seen from early March to late May, and early June to mid-September. Mountain flights generally occur from mid-March to mid- or late June, and late June to early October. Adults are known to fly high above the ground, usually above the tree canopy.
Committee to Name the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail as a North Carolina State Symbol
Sponsored by Cape Fear Garden Club, Wilmington, NC