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.
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
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
Lives in areas where paw paws grow: primarily moist, low woodlands near rivers and swamps
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
Adults feed on nectar from flowers such as redbud, milkweed and verbena
Caterpillars feed on paw paw leaves
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
Small groups of males often congregate on moist sand and soil. They obtain salt and other nutrients this way.