Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2 3/8 to 3 1/2 inches (6.0-8.9 cm). White with black stripes and long, slender tails; hindwing bears a bright patch of red above the eyespot on upper surface.  Below, there is a bright red stripe through the hindwing.   Spring forms are smaller, lighter, and have shorter tails.  Tail length increases with each generation.

Egg: Greenish globes are laid singly on various parts of the pawpaw host, including flowers and buds.

Caterpillar: There are several color forms: green; green with light blue and yellow stripes. or charcoal black with white and yellow stripes.  All have a humped appearance.

Chrysalis: Chrysalides are short and stout. Leafy green or bark brown. They are often attached to their pawpaw hosts and are the overwintering stage.

A large, black-and-white-striped butterfly flying in Alabama is a Zebra Swallowtail. Slender striped wings are adapted for both maneuverability and camouflage, allowing Zebra Swallowtails to flutter and swoop through woodland understories. Visually, their telltale stripes make them difficult to follow as they glide through dappled sunlight and shadows.

Males patrol for females and may be observed flying low, back and forth along woodland trails within their habitat.   Males also gather at mud puddles, wet roads and riverbanks to sip moisture.

Zebra Swallowtails belong to the worldwide group of Kite Swallowtails, a tropical genus named for its wing shape. They are the sole members that have adapted to our North American, less-than-tropical climate.

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: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chilton, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Henry, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lawrence, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Wilcox, Winston

  • 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
1 25 66 60 181 177 110 174 69 28 51 21 23 11 10 4 7 5 4 1 22 3 20 32 22 117 59 20 74 49 7 22 36 7

Habitat

Hardwood forests as well as bottomlands.  Tolerates development poorly.

Host and Nectar Plants

Zebra Swallowtails feed exclusively on various species of pawpaw (Annonaceae). 

Common Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) and Dwarf Pawpaw (Asimina parviflora) are documented in Alabama.

Zebra Swallowtails have a moch shorter proboscis than other swallowtails and typically nectar from shorter-tubed flowers that include blueberries, blackberries, wild plums, blue stars, and milkweeds.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Zebra Swallowtails rarely visit gardens and seldom stray far from the woods.  However, adding pawpaws to your landscape may entice them to visit if connected to the right habitat.