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Georgia Symbols, Butterfly: Tiger Swallowtail
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Adopted in 1988.
The tiger swallowtail, proclaimed the state butterfly in 1988, is one of Georgia's most beautiful species of lepidoptera. This magnificent butterfly has large yellow wings edged and striped with black. The resolution designating a state butterfly was inspired by Mrs. Deen Day Smith, president of The Garden Club of Georgia, Inc., who donated funds to build the Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens.
The eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, one of the most common and widely distributed swallowtail butterflies in the eastern United States, has a wingspan that can reach 5 inches. The males' bright yellow wings have four black bands on the front wings, and a long black tail on each hind wing, and are easily identified. The first rendering of this species was of an adult male, drawn in 1587 by John White, commander of Sir Walter Raleigh's third expedition to North America. Some females, particularly those in the North, are black, with some blue interlaced with black bands on the hind wings. These females superficially resemble the poisonous blue pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor.
P. glaucus has a black body with yellow stripes running laterally along both sides. The upper and lower wings are yellow accented with black bands (resembling tiger stripes). At the edges of all four wings are distinct black bands with yellow markings. The two lower wings have blue and orange spots near the tails (Klots,1979, 175).
The Tiger Swallowtail is on average 4.0-5.0 inches in width, (Klots, 1979, 175) and 3.5-4.5 inches in height.
The caterpillar feeds on trees: Wild Cherry, Tulip Tree, Birch, Poplar, and Ash (Klots, 1979, 175).
- Two flights generally occur in the north, and three or four flights take place as far south as Florida.
- Male swallowtails fly at treetop level and descend to mate with lower-flying females.
- Females lay single, globular greenish-yellow eggs on the surface of leaves, and the young larvae that result are dark and resemble bird droppings.
- The two-inch-long mature larva or caterpillar is bright green and swollen in front, with false black and orange eyespots. These larvae spin a silk "mat" on the leaf, which curls the edges of the leaf somewhat.
- Larvae feed until they are full-grown, then develop into a dark brown or greenish brown caterpillar and descend the trunk of the tree and pupate on the ground, creating a dark stick-like chrysalis in which they overwinter.
- The pupa is light brown with a dark brown or black lateral stripe and dark brown dorsal band.
The tiger swallowtail is widely distributed from New England west through the southern Great Lakes area (along Merriam's "transition life zone") through most of the Great Plains states and south to Texas and Florida. In the transition zone, the eastern tiger swallowtail is sympatric with the closely related Canadian tiger swallowtail, Papilio canadensis (until recently, considered a subspecies of P. glaucus).
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