This is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. You can identify it (usually) by its large size and bright yellow color with black tiger stripes. Male tiger swallowtails have a few orange and blue spots near the tail. Females have both a light and dark form. The light form looks a lot like the male, except it has more blue on the hind wings. The dark form still has the blue spots, but it is otherwise very dark with no yellow. Both colors visited our garden today. First the dark then the yellow within minutes of each other.
The female dark form mimics another species called the Pipevine Swallowtail. It is generally believed that if an area has an abundance of Pipevine Swallowtails, then there will be more dark forms of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Since the Pipevine Swallowtails eat from a plant called the Pipevine, they tend to be considered not so tasty to predators; hence, the female dark form Eastern Tiger Swallowtail tends to not be bothered by predation.
Their food supply is abundant and consists of Spicebush, Common Milkweed, Honeysuckle and Black-eyed Susan to name a few. Since the Swallowtails are great pollinators, there are many available flowering plants and bushes which will attract them to your gardens. Some other plants which are recommended and will look beautiful in your yard are: Shasta Daisy, Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Phlox, Beebalm, Baby’s Breath, Yarrow, Thistle and Joe-Pye Weed. With any combination of these plants in your yard, you will be guaranteed to attract any number of butterfly species to your gardens, which without a doubt will include the beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The butterflies in these photos were photographed in my garden May 26 within minutes of each other on a varigated Weigela.