Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 3 3/8 and 4 1/2 inches (860 - 115 mm). Very similar to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but significantly larger than spring form Eastern Tigers. Hindwings appear elongated and the area of silvery-blue on the underside is much broader than on Eastern Tigers.  Underside of forewings has a nearly continuous yellow submarginal band that is comprised of closely stacked rectangles; the band on Eastern Tigers contains separate yellow ovals. "Appy" females may be either predominantly yellow or predominantly dark. Both forms have much less iridescent blue on their upper surface hindwings than Eastern Tiger females. 

Egg: Probably very similar to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: greenish-yellow globes that are deposited singly, usually on the upper surface of a host plant leaf.

Caterpillar: Probably very similar to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: Young caterpillars are brownish-black with a white “saddle” that makes them resemble bird droppings.  Later stages are bright green with small eyespots behind the true head, enabling them to resemble a snake.

Chrysalis: Probably very similar to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Chrysalides are the overwintering stage. 

In May 2008, Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails were officially documented in Alabama's Appalachian foothills. Sara Bright and Paulette Ogard observed them nectaring on blackberry blossoms in the mountains of northeast Jackson County.

Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail was described and named a new species in 2002. Who would have guessed that hidden within one of America's most widely known and recognizable butterfly species, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, was another similar but separate entity?  Lepidopterists had long scratched their heads over unusually large, oddly shaped swallowtails that seemed to fly only in the mountains. Recent studies by Krushnamegh Kunte et al. (2011) have determined that this species evolved long ago from the interbreeding of Eastern Tiger and Canadian Tiger (P. canadensis) swallowtails. The new species, Appalachian Tiger, was formed when the viable offspring continued to evolve on their own; interestingly, the Appalachian is much larger than either of its two original parent species.

Many exciting discoveries remain in order to determine distribution, host plant, preference, and complete life-cycle details for Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails, not only in Alabama, but throughout their range.  Citizen scientists can play a valuable role in putting together the pieces of Appalachian Tiger's life history puzzle.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Jackson

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
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Habitat

Deciduous broadleaf forests of mid-to-high elevations in southern Appalachian Mountains. Seldom strays far from wooded areas.

Host and Nectar Plants

No host plant has yet been positively identified for this species, although caterpillars raised in captivity in Virginia reportedly will eat Black Cherry (Prunus serotina).

No host plant has yet been determined in Alabama.

 

Landscaping Ideas

Swallowtails are avid nectarers and if Appalachians are in the area, they may be attracted by nectar-rich flowers that coincide with their single flight time.  These include native azaleas, Mountain Laurel (Kalma latifolia) and blackberries.