Just Another Nature Enthusiast

JANE’s Images & Thoughts 🌲 Inspired by the Pacific Northwest & places I wander

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Western Tiger Swallowtail 
Papilio rutulus Lucas, 1852

Identification: Upperside of hindwing with upper-most marginal spot yellow or lacking. Underside of forewing with separate yellow spots forming marginal band. Hindwing has narrow marginal spots and no orange tint except for 2 spots near end of inner margin.

Wing Span: 2 3/4 – 4 inches (7 – 10 cm).

Life History: Males patrol canyons or hilltops for receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on surface of host plant leaves. Caterpillars feed on leaves and rest on silken mats in shelters of curled leaves. Chrysalids hibernate.

Flight: One flight from June-July.

Caterpillar Hosts: Leaves of cottonwood and aspen (Populus), willows (Salix), wild cherry (Prunus), and ash (Fraxinus).

Adult Food: Nectar from many flowers including thistles, abelia, California buckeye, zinnia*, and yerba santa.

Habitat: Woodlands near rivers and streams, wooded suburbs, canyons, parks, roadsides, and oases.

Range: Western North America from British Columbia south to southern New Mexico and Baja California; east to western South Dakota and southeast Colorado. A rare stray to central Nebraska.

Conservation: Not usually required.

NCGR: G5 – Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Management Needs: None noted.

Information cut from: Butterflies and Moths of North America


*Western Tiger Swallowtails were observed in flight near our home for several weeks before they began coming closer to ground level and started feeding. The zinnias coming into full bloom were key in finally getting some beautiful photographs of these gems.

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