Swallowtail (Papilionidae)

The members of the Papilionidae family are also known as swallowtail, having a total of about 550 species. Though most of them inhabit the tropical regions, they are found in every continent apart from Antarctica.

Types of Swallowtail Butterfly

Types of Swallowtail Butterfly

Butterflies In This Family

Eastern Black Swallowtail Pipevine Swallowtail Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail Giant Swallowtail Two-tailed Swallowtail
California Pipevine Swallowtail Spicebush Swallowtail Green Dragontail
Oregon Swallowtail Common Green Birdwing Common Yellow Swallowtail
Western Tiger Swallowtail Giant Blue Swallowtail Large Citrus
Christmas Butterfly Goliath Birdwing Great Mormon Butterfly
Polydamas Swallowtail Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Palamedes Swallowtail
Wallace’s Golden Birdwing Old World Swallowtail Magellan Birdwing
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing Scarce Swallowtail
Pale Swallowtail Anise Swallowtail Schaus Swallowtail
Apollo Butterfly Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Ulysses Butterfly

Description and Identification


The larva has a smooth and stout appearance, the color mostly being yellow and white with black markings.


They are often curved backward, though the colors vary from one species to the other.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: In many members of the family, the difference between male and female is not visible, though in some sexual dimorphism is prominent.

Color and Appearance: When opened, the wings are mostly black with markings of yellow or even blue.  Some even have a yellow body with black markings on the sides. When closed, the yellow and black patterns on the wings are visible, while some species may display patterns of red.

Average Wingspan: 6cm to 14 cm (2.36 inches to 5.5 inches)

Flight pattern: Slow and steady


They are round and green in color.

Quick Facts

Distribution Distributed widely through all continents excepting Antarctica
Habitat Around mountainous terrains, humid forests, arid deserts, and lowland meadows
Lifespans of adults 6 to 14 days
Host Plants Passionflower species, wild black cherry, tulip poplar, sweet bay magnolia, common lilac, Hoptree or water ash, chokeberry, willow, cherry, and ash

Eastern black swallowtail eats garden plants in the carrot family apart from its host plant  Queen Anne’s lace

Adult diet Nectar of host plants, as well as manure and mud

Did You Know

  • The butterflies of this family acquire their name because of the forked appearance on their tail mostly visible when it rests spreading out its wings.
  • Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus chose its family name Papilionidae, the first half of which in Latin stands for butterfly.
  • The Siberian Apollo is the northernmost swallowtail spotted around the Arctic Circle region at an altitude of about 1500 meters.