Swallowtails are North America’s largest butterfly. The name comes from the long “tails” extending off the back of the butterfly’s hind wings. Since swallowtails generally have a long proboscis, a tonguelike organ that enables butterflies to suck up nectar, this butterfly has no trouble feeding from long tubular flowers. The male swallowtail is attracted to puddles where it can feed on nutrients, such as sodium, which cannot be obtained through nectar.
Butterfly Spotting: A broad yellow band splashes through the center of the forewings of the anise swallowtail. Where there isn’t yellow there is black except for spots of blue between the yellow band and its short tail. An orange eyespot with a black pupil on the hindwings scares predators away if the butterfly is approached from behind.
Backyard Tip: The primary food of the anise swallowtail is anise, a flowering plant that tastes like licorice and can also be used in recipes for flavoring.
Butterfly Spotting: The forewings of the black swallowtail are black to blue-black; the hindwings a diffuse blue. Two rows of small cream-colored dots outline the edge of the forewing.
Backyard Tip: It is thought that the black swallowtail is attracted to gardens where parsley and carrots grow. Other sources of food are phlox and milkweed.
Butterfly Spotting: This predominantly yellow butterfly has black tiger-stripe markings across its wings. The eastern tiger’s wings are bordered in black with a row of blue patches and an occasional orange spot.
Backyard Tip: The eastern tiger likes to feed in groups and enjoys nectar from a wide range of flowers.
Butterfly Spotting: The pipevine’s forewings can range from coal black to dark gray. The brilliant blue iridescent hindwings with cream to yellow spots marking the outer rim make this butterfly easy to spot.
Backyard Tip: Plant honeysuckle, milkweed, orchids, buddleia, azaleas, lilac and thistle to attract the pipevine to your back yard.
Butterfly Spotting: As its name suggests this butterfly has the black- and white-striped markings of a zebra, although the white stripes can sometimes appear greenish. The zebra has the longest tail of all the swallowtails, and two deep blue splotches mark the spot where the tail emerges from the wing. Closer to the body deep red markings help to camouflage the zebra when nestling among flowers.
Backyard Tip: Zebra swallowtails can be seen mostly among pawpaw trees. If you live in Washington, D.C. you’re in luck. Zebras are commonly found near the banks of the Potomac River.