Swallowtail Pictures and Identification Tips

picture of an Indra swallowtail butterfly

While Papilioniae or the group commonly called swallowtail butterflies, divide into a handful of genera, almost two-thirds of the species belong to the Papilio genus.

Most people associate the approximately forty North American Swallowtail species with the Papilio genus. All the swallowtail pictures presented here cover the genera. For additional Swallowtail pictures and information please press the Swallowtails button.

The top picture shows the Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra), a predominantly western species.

Finding swallowtails can be an easy task in the southern most areas of the United States. Close to one-half of all swallowtail species can be found visiting gardens, sometimes only occasionally, in South Texas and South Florida. Throughout the rest of the United States, a small number of them show up around flower gardens during the summer months.

picture of an Eastern Tiger, swallowtail pictures

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papillo glaulcus) comes in two different forms, a yellow and a dark form.

picture of the dark version of the Eastern Tiger

Here’s the dark form. With a side view, the best field identification clue is the lack of spots on the abdomen.

picture of a pale swallowtail

The remaining swallowtail species also have a limited geographical range, and therefore the number of species present in any area usually leans to the low numbers. The Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) in the picture, for example, has a range limited to western North America.

picture of a giant swallowtail butterfly

With a wing span approaching four inches, it’s difficult to miss the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) as it flutters around flowers across the south.

Black Swallowtail butterfly
With the exception of the Pacific Northwest, the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is one of the most wide ranging of all the native swallowtail species.

The caterpillars feed on plants in the carrot family, partially explaining the wide range.

Looking at the Black Swallowtail from a top of the wings viewpoint shows two rows of white spots along the edges of the wings. That’s a good field identification clue to differentiate it from the other dark winged swallowtails.

From a side view the Black Swallowtail is going to look very similar to the Spicebush Swallowtail.

Both species have two rows of orange spots on the hindwing. However Black Swallowtails lack on orange spot in the middle of the row.

Anise Swallowtail butterfly
Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) are a common Western species. The larvae feed on plants in the parsley family so they can common be found around residential areas.

picture of a  butterfly
Once you get to the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis), the picture of the yellow butterfly with stripes and tails begins to sink in. The Eastern, Western and Canadian look very similar.

picture of a Palamedes Swallowtail  butterfly
Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes) are large dark wing butterflies from the Southeast United States.

Their territory overlaps with the Black Swallowtail. The picture shows a side view of a Paamedes and that yellow stripe on the underside of the wings is a good field identification clue.

Plant some Redbay (a shrub in the laural family) in the yard and invite the Palamedes in. That is the larval host plant.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly
The last of the swallowtail pictures goes to the Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), a very common species, found wherever the spicebush grows. It’s the larval host plant.

They have more than one brood per year, so depending on the weather conditions, they can be seen from February through November, at least in the South.

It’s one of the handful of dark winged swallowtails. From the top of the wings picture, they only have the one row of white marks along the edges of the wings. A side view of the Spicebush Swallowtail shows two rows of orange spots.