Swallowtail Similarities and Differences

Some swallowtail butterflies are quite similar. There are a few distinct methods to tell a difference between species as well as which is male and which is female. Let’s look at a few of them.

From the top, Tiger ST and Giant ST butterflies are not similar. They are two swallowtail species that have more yellow than black under their wings. From the underside, they are often mixed up with each other.

Male and female Tiger Swallowtail and Giant Swallowtail butterflies

Giant Swallowtail
Male and female Tiger Swallowtail

From underneath, they are very similar.

Sides of Giant Swallowtail and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies

Sides of Giant Swallowtail and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies

There are several black and blue swallowtails. Pipevine Swallowtails have a metallic blue, unlike the blue on black form Tiger, female Spicebush, and female Black Swallowtail butterflies.

Male Pipevine Swallowtail, female Spicebush Swallowtail, female black Tiger Swallowtail, female Black Swallowtail

Left to right: male Pipevine Swallowtail,
female Spicebush Swallowtail,
female black Tiger Swallowtail,
female Black Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail and male Black Swallowtails are very similar. The yellow in Palamedes hind wings blend into one yellow stripe. Male Black Swallowtails have distinctly separate yellow spots that create a yellow stripe on the hindwings.

Palamedes Swallowtail vs Black Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail vs Black Swallowtail

From the side, one can see that the Spicebush has one orange spot missing on its hindwing. The Tiger has vertical tiger stripes, not always visible until it is in bright sunlight. Black Swallowtails have all the orange spots in place.

Spicebush Swallowtail, black form Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail

Left to right: Spicebush Swallowtail,
black form Tiger Swallowtail,
Black Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtails have a tight J formation of orange spots on the outside of their hindwings. The formation of orange spots on other species is more relaxed, like a C or (.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail
Tight J formation of orange spots

Both Gold Rim (Polydamas) Swallowtails and Pipevine Swallowtails host on pipevine plants. It is easy to distinguish between the two species. Gold Rim Swallowtails have a gold/yellow band across their hindwings. The rest of their upper wings is black.

Top: Gold Rim Swallowtail Bottom: Pipevine Swallowtail

Top: Gold Rim Swallowtail
Bottom: Pipevine Swallowtail

Male Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies have metallic blue, very striking in bright sunlight. Females have metallic black when sunlight hits their wings. Unless the sun hits her wings just right, her hindwings appear to be a simple dull black color.

Left: female Pipevine Swallowtail Right: male Pipevine Swallowtail

Left: female Pipevine Swallowtail
Right: male Pipevine Swallowtail

Female Spicebush Swallowtail = blue on hindwings Male = aqua or blue-green on hindwings

Female Spicebush = blue on hindwings
Male = aqua or blue-green on hindwings

Tiger Swallowtail female = blue on hindwings Tiger male = little to no blue on hindwings

Tiger female = blue on hindwings
Tiger male = little to no blue on hindwings

Black Swallowtail female = blue Black Swallowtail male = yellow

Black Swallowtail female = blue Black Swallowtail male = yellow

Female Palamedes Swallowtails have small blue dots on their hindwings

Female Palamedes Swallowtails have
small blue dots on their hindwings

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