Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Two-tailed Swallowtail Image @
Location: Sycamore Canyon, AZ
GPS: 31.4N, -111.2W, elev=3,940' MAP
Date: August 1, 2009
ID : 7C2V0967 [3888 x 2592]

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The Two-Tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) is a large North American butterfly. Its appearance is similar to Western and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, but has thinner and fewer black stripes on the wings and the hind wing has two tails. The Two-Tailed Swallowtail has distinctive yellow wings with a black tiger striping. Each hindwing has several blue markings (top and bottom). The eyespots can fool predators into attacking the rear of the butterfly instead of the head, giving the butterfly a chance to escape. It grows to 2.75 - 5.25 inches in width.

The Two-tailed Swallowtail is the state butterfly of Arizona.

The butterfly can be found throughout Arizona except in the extreme west and southwest (it can also be found in: CA, NM, UT, CO and NV) and typically lives in canyons and cities at lower elevations. Adults fly from late February to mid-November. Host plants include: chokecherry, bitter cherry, Arizona rosewood, single-leaf ash, hoptree and Arizona Sycamore.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is light green and marked near the head with four yellow dots and two yellowish eyespots with blue centers. The "neck" is banded with black and yellow, and the body has several rows of tiny blue dots. The caterpillar turns brownish or reddish in the last stage prior to pupation.

Adult: The butterfly is large, with a wingspan of 3 ˝ to 5 inches. The upperside is yellow to orangish yellow and edged thickly with black. Each side of the butterfly has four narrow, diagonal, nearly parallel stripes; the innermost stripe is the longest, while the outermost two may simply be bars. The hindwing has a curved row of blue patches; below the blue are several bars or spots of orange. There are two tails extending from the rear of the hindwing, with the innermost tail considerably shorter. The underside is marked similarly. The underside of the hindwing is edged with black, then blue, then yellow bars.

Range: This species ranges from southern British Columbia and Alberta south through the western half of the U.S. to western Texas and into Mexico. The range extends east as far as the western edge of the Dakotas, central Nebraska, and Oklahoma’s panhandle. In Idaho, it occurs throughout much of the state.

Habitat: It uses a variety of habitats, including canyonlands, foothills, valleys, woodlands, and gardens.

Diet: Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of a variety of trees and shrubs, including ash (Fraxinus spp.) and cherry (Prunus spp.).

Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

Ecology: Caterpillars construct small feeding structures from folded leaves tied and lined with silk. The number of generations of caterpillars produced each year varies with location, with only one in the north, several in the south, and many in Texas. Pupae present at the end of the growing season overwinter in a physiological state called diapause, although occasionally some finish pupating and emerge as adults that same autumn. Adults generally fly from April to October in the northern part of its range, and fly most of the year in the southern part of its range.

Reproduction: Males actively patrol in search of receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves.

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two_tailed_swallowtail's Range Map Click here to see the Two-tailed Swallowtail's range map!

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