Home / Swallowtail (Papilionidae) / Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

Two-tailed Swallowtail
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The Two-tailed Swallowtail is a species of large butterflies that range across the western parts of North America to Central America in three regional subspecies, viz. P. m. grandiosus, P. m. multicaudata, and P. m. pusillus. They are best seen during the summer months almost in all kinds of urban areas, other than the wild.

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

Two-tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar
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Two-tailed Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar
gardenswithwings.com

The two tailed swallowtail larva has mottled black and white coloration all over the body that makes them look somewhat like bird droppings (which is an adaptation to camouflage). As they mature, they begin to turn orange-brown or bright green with distinctive eyespot markings close to the thorax area, behind the head. This often helps them fool or confuse predators and enemies.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Common names: Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail
  • Scientific Name: Papilio multicaudata

Pupa

Two-tailed Swallowtail Pupa
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The chrysalis of the two tailed swallowtail is gray-brown in color and remains hidden in some protective location that helps them camouflage well with the background.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: No visible differences

Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal part of both the wings of the two-tailed swallowtail show yellow to orange-yellow base color edged with thick black borders. Each of the four wings shows four, nearly parallel stripes, with the outermost stripe being the shortest. At the end of each secondary wing, there is a curved row of patches in purplish blue, below which, there are a few spots or bars in orange. When the wings are closed, the ventral side of the two-tailed swallowtail displays a similar pattern as the ventral side, but in a much lighter or fainter note.

Male Two-tailed Swallowtail
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Female Two-tailed Swallowtail
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Average wingspan: 3.5 to 5.5 inches

Flight pattern: Slow and erratic

Eggs

Two-tailed Swallowtail Eggs
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Rounded in shape and yellowish in color, laid singly on the leaves of host plants

Quick Facts

Distribution Western parts of North America, south from British Columbia, east to central Nebraska and central Texas, and south through Mexico
Habitat Foothills, valleys, canyons, woodlands, parks, roadsides, suburbs, cities, and gardens
Lifespan of adults 6 to 14 days
Host plants Cherry, ash, willow, hoptree, poplar, chokeberry
Adult diet Flower nectar

Did You Know?

Arizona designated the two tailed swallowtail as the official state butterfly in 2001.

Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail
static.inaturalist.org
Two-tailed Swallowtail Butterfly
fireflyforest.net
Papilio Multicaudata
bugguide.net

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Common names: Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail
  • Scientific Name: Papilio multicaudata