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Two-Tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Two-Tailed Swallowtail, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 8/11/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Two-Tailed Swallowtail  
Picture of Two-Tailed-Swallowtail-Butterfly

A popular Tiger Swallowtail west of the Mississippi River, the Two-Tailed Swallowtail is blessed with an extra pair of tails at the tip of its hindwings.

Technically one could argue that the Two-Tailed Swallowtail has four tails, but the name counts the number per wing, not in total. Like other Tigers, this species is yellow with black stripes, creating a visual resemblance to the great jungle cat.The thin stripes are longest near the body and get progressively shorter toward the tips of the wings. The hindwings are scalloped and imbued with shades of iridescent blue and burnt orange at the center line. A long and short tail flanks the bottom edge of each hindwing. The Two-Tailed Swallowtail is one of the biggest butterflies found in the western part of the continent.

Caterpillars have yellow faces and are fleshy and green when young. They are wider at the head and neck than at the rear. Small eyespots behind the head are followed by a white and black lined collar of sorts. Tiny light blue/lavender dots ring the segment before the collar with more on the third through sixth segments after the collar. Caterpillars of this species are found eating the leaves of chokcherry, hoptree and ash trees.

Adults are found near water sources like streams and creeks. They drink flower nectar and can be spotted on blossoms as well as in flight. They are active spring through autumn. Look for them in canyons, woodlands and areas with moving water.

Two-Tailed Swallowtail Information

Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common Name: Two-Tailed Swallowtail
Scientific Name: Papilio multicaudata

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Lepidoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Papilionidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Papilio
       Arrow graphic Species: multicaudata

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 90 mm to 127 mm (3.51 inches to 4.953 inches)
Identifying Colors: yellow, black, blue, orange
Additional Descriptors: four, tails, two, stripes, lines, smudge, tiger, flying, spotted, eyes

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alaska; Arizona; California; Colorado; Idaho; Kansas; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; South Dakota; Texas; Utah;Washington; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia;Saskatchewan; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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