Field of Science

Do tigers stalk your garden?

It's not exactly a jungle out there, but this particular tiger does stalk our garden, the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. With a wingspan of some 8 to 15 cm it's hard to miss, and in a diverse perennial garden, the adults find plenty of appropriate flowers for feeding. A corner of a side yard tends to light up with very late rays from the setting sun and butterflies, particularly red admirals and tiger swallowtails, often put on quite a mating/territorial flight displays, spiraling columnar flights of 2 or more butterflies, as many as 15 red admirals at times. One of the reasons that tiger swallowtails may be so common is that members of the magnolia family are their larval food plant (and maybe rose family too?), where their caterpillars feed, and big tuliptrees are quite common in our neighborhood, not to mention the Phactor's magnolia collection. Females can be black and confused with black swallowtails.

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