Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio canadensis

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The Canadian Tiger Swallowtail is a beautiful, large butterfly with bold black and yellow stripes, typical of the ‘tiger’ swallowtails. This butterfly graces many northern areas and is a delight to see fluttering in the summer sun.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Common Name
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Latin Name

Papilio canadensis


Found throughout Canada, from the northern parts of the Great Lakes, across the boreal forest to Alaska, and extending into the northern regions of the US, particularly in the Rocky Mountains.


Caterpillar: They are initially brown and white, resembling bird droppings, but as they grow, they turn green with a pair of yellow eyespots with black and blue centers on the thorax. Butterfly: It has yellow wings with black tiger striping. There’s a splash of blue and orange near the tail of the hindwing.


Wingspan ranges from 7 to 10 cm. Caterpillars can grow up to 5 cm in length.


Various open and wooded areas, especially in more northern latitudes and higher elevations. Common habitats include woodlands, fields, riversides, and suburban areas.


Caterpillar: They feed on leaves of various trees including aspen, willow, and birch. Butterfly: Prefers nectar from flowers such as dandelion, lilac, and chokecherry.


Egg → caterpillar (larva) → chrysalis (pupa) → adult butterfly. After mating, females lay single green eggs on the leaves of host plants. Caterpillars emerge, eat, and grow, eventually pupating into a chrysalis from which the adult butterfly emerges.


Like other butterflies, the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail primarily communicates through visual cues and chemical signals, particularly pheromones during mating rituals.

Defense Mechanisms

Caterpillar: The eyespots on the caterpillar deter predators by mimicking the eyes of larger animals. The early instars resemble bird droppings, providing camouflage. Butterfly: Their bright colors may signal potential distastefulness to predators. The tail-like extensions on the hindwings can also divert attacks away from vital body areas.

Ecological Importance

Pollination is a significant role, helping in the reproduction of many plants. As a prey species, they’re crucial for the food chain, feeding birds and other predators.

Conservation Status

It’s not considered endangered or threatened and is common in its range.
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