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scientific name    Papilio canadensis    

common name     Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Boreal forests and parkland aspen groves, local in the prairie grasslands.

One brood per year, the peak flight period occurring from early June to early July.

Throughout most of Alberta, there are no species that can be confused with the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail. The large size (85 - 100mm wingspan) and black stripe through the middle of the hindwing distinguish it from the Old World and Anise Swallowtails (P. machaon and P. zelicaon). In the extreme southern part of the province, from the Crowsnest region south and east to the Saskatchewan border, three other Swallowtails could be encountered that are superficially similar. The Two-tailed Swallowtail (P. multicaudatus) is larger (wingspan usually over 100mm), has narrower black stripes, and has two rather than one tail per hindwing. Pale or faded female P. canadensis are similar to the Pale Swallowtail (P. eurymedon), but the black stripes of P. eurymedon are much broader, and the ground colour of eurymedon is white or creamy white, never pale yellow. A third species may be present in the Waterton - Crowsnest area, the Western Tiger Swallowtail (P. rutulus), which has yellow rather than red spots along the margin of the hindwing underside. No subspecies are currently recognized. Royal Alberta Museum page

life history
The eggs are smooth, green and round (Bird et al. 1995). Early instar larvae resemble bird droppings, while mature larvae are velvety green with a pair of eyespots and a yellow and black stripe on the mid-thoracic segment (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Pupae overwinter, and are light brown with a darker brown lateral stripe (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Males patrol along forest edges to search for females, often along the canopy or subcanopy of aspen woods, and sip moisture at mud and sand.

Not of concern, a widespread, usually common species.

diet info
Larvae feed on willows (Salix spp.), Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and cultivated crab apple (Malus spp.). Adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers, particularly dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), cultivated lilacs, dogbane (Apocynum spp.) and Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) (Hooper 1973).

The Canadian Tiger Swallowtail occurs through most of Canada and Alaska (but not in the high arctic), south to the northern tier of the U.S. (Opler 1999).

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Comments (13)Add New Comment

Gwen (2010-07-13)
we have just found one of these in northern tennessee

MOLLY (2010-08-09)
hi we are in dunnville ontario and just found 1, should we put him in a willow tree or will he kill it?

Kost Kidz (2010-08-18)
just found one in Crete Illinois

Carla Albert (2010-08-31)
We just found one in Wisconsin (Sun Prairie) and we have a photo of it too. How did it make it to our state?

ethan (2010-09-02)
we just found one yesterday...near st paul,mn...he stuck his forked tongue out at us...very strange..it was the caterpillar

Gabriel (2010-09-12)
I have found a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail in Polson Montana, I am 9 years old and would like to winter the pupae. It is dark Brown/red now, if you can help me with information that would be great. I have taken pictures and hope to document the winter stage to release.
Thank you

Felix (2010-09-19)
In answer to Gabriel, if the pupa is dark brown or red now, it might have some sort of disease. It should be light gray brown or even greenish. But if you are referring to the late stage larva, then that is okay. You can see a photo of a brown larva at the Royal Alberta Museum website at: http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/natural/insects/bugsfaq/swallow.htm
This species overwinters in the pupal stage and can be kept in a container (so the mice don''t get it) in your yard or your fridge during the winter months.

sydney (2010-09-23)
We found 1 yesterday in Medicine Hat,Alberta.It is about 2 inchs long.Are they supposed to give off a bad odor when disturbed?

Felix Sperling (2010-09-25)
Yes, if the bad odor is a bit like vinegar, then that is one of the ways in which they defend themselves. It comes out when they evert an organ behind the head called an osmeterium.

Sandy 07-19-2012 (2012-07-19)
My 12yrs old grandaugther has found one in the larvae stage,on the side of my house,in Binghamton,New York.It is about 2 inches long looks like it is getting ready to pupate.we put it in a glass jar with holes and a branch from my crab tree. hoping to see a butterfly soon.

Jeanette Dwyer (2012-09-09)
I just found one of these and took pictures in Jamestown,tn

E Cox (2013-09-02)
Just found one today eat wood in the Children's Garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. At first I thought my son found a pretend larvae attached to a chopped piece of wood. However, when my son touched it reared up and stuck out a tongue looking body part. So we took the picture so we could identify it tonight. We did!

Joe Belicek (2014-04-06)
Pterourus canadensis Rothchild & Jordan, 1906

(a) Voltinism. My field observation and rearings of several dozens of specimens of this species over several years, indicate that Canadian Tiger Swallowtail in Alberta could be, in some years, partially bivoltine.

(b) Life cycle. The winter is passed in the pupal stage. In Edmonton and surrounding areas, the spring emergence coincides with the onset of flowering of Lilacs (early part of May). The males seem to emerge before females. In the parking lot at the Devonian Gardens, I observed several times nectaring males on several Lilacs shrubs planted there. Displaying typical papilionid nectaring behaviour, the butterflies hover around the flowers, nectaring in flight, without alighting on the inflorescence. Slightly larger, paler females seem to emerge later. While males sometime congregate in large numbers in puddling clubs, females (seen so far) were typically solitary. The green, spherical eggs, were deposited singly on the upper surface of leaves of willows (Salix spp.). The larvae will readily accept Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) as the food plant. I grew two aspen saplings, planted in my back yard for this purpose. The green, Pterourus larva with paired ocular marking on the 2nd thoracic segment looks strikingly different from the striped Papilio larval type. Just before pupating, the coloration of the mature green larva turns to darker, brownish-purple. The pupa is attached to the substrate by the caudal silken pad and by a silken dorsal girdle.

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