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Zebra Swallowtail

Eurytides marcellus

Adult zebra swallowtails feed on nectar from flowers such as redbud, milkweed and verbena. (Dave Govoni/Flickr)
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Adult zebra swallowtails feed on nectar from flowers such as redbud, milkweed and verbena. (Dave Govoni/Flickr)

The zebra swallowtail is a butterfly with thick, black stripes on its white wings. It lives in moist, low woodlands where its host plant, the paw paw tree, grows.

Appearance:

  • Long, triangular wings with black, zebra-like stripes on a whitish background
  • Two blue spots and long, thin tails at the ends of the wings
  • Red spots on the wings near the lower part of the body
  • Wings are smaller and lighter-colored in early spring
  • Reddish antennae
  • Caterpillars are hairless. They have two color morphs: green with yellow and black bands, and dark brown with orange and white bands.
  • Wingspan grows approximately 2-4 inches

Habitat:

  • Lives in areas where paw paws grow: primarily moist, low woodlands near rivers and swamps

Range:

  • Can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Most common in the southern portion of the Bay region, including Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia

Feeding:

  • Adults feed on nectar from flowers such as redbud, milkweed and verbena
  • Caterpillars feed on paw paw leaves

Flight:

  • Shallow wingbeats
  • Flies erratically and low to the ground

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Breeds in moist, wooded areas where paw paws grow
  • Males patrol the understory to find a mate.
  • After mating, females lay single green eggs on the underside of paw paw leaves or on paw paw trunks
  • After hatching, caterpillars live on the paw paw leaves as they eat and grow
  • Once it is fully grown, the caterpillar uses silk to attach itself to a stem or leaf. It sheds its skin and forms a cocoon called a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar morphs into an adult butterfly.
  • It takes about one month for a zebra swallowtail to mature from egg to adult
  • Adults live up to six months

Other Facts:

  • Small groups of males often congregate on moist sand and soil. They obtain salt and other nutrients this way.

Sources and Additional Information:




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