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A Nature Journal

Experience the natural world with east central Illinois master naturalists
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Beautiful Butterflies: The Tiger Swallowtail

Posted by Bethany Semancik -

A recent sunny morning ushered in a visiting butterfly to my yard and I was lucky enough to snap a few portraits.Then, a couple of friends asked about Tiger Swallowtails and how to attract them to their own yards.

According to the Illinois Natural History Survey book Butterflies of Illinois, the Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is a year-round resident throughout Illinois, on the wing from late March to early November. The species survives the cold by overwintering as a chrysalis.

You can attract tigers and other butterflies to your yard by providing a caterpillar food source, adult food source, and water. Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars use a number of trees as hosts: wild cherry, basswood, tuliptree, birch, wafer ash, cottonwood, and willow. The adults feed on nectar from a wide variety of flowers. The website Butterflies and Moths of North America lists wild cherry, lilac, milkweed, and Joe-Pye weed. Happily, these butterflies do not limit themselves only to these--coneflowers and azaleas also serve as a food source for these beauties. In the azalea photo, you may note that this specimen is missing his tails, possibly lost to a hungry bird!

If no open water source is readily available in your yard, you could try to arrange a slow drip from a faucet onto a flat rock. Butterflies are big water drinkers and are often found congregating around puddles.

Here are a few resources for more information about butterflies.

INHS Manual 14: Butterflies of Illinois: a Field Guide, by Jeffords, Post & Wiker

Teresa DeWitt (MN 2013)

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