Identifying Swallowtail Butterflies

close up of a butterfly with black and yellow colorations

Swallowtails are spectacular butterflies, and in the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing we fly both the Thoas swallowtail (Papilio thoas) and the giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). At first glance, these two species can be very difficult to tell apart. Learn to ID them by counting the number of spots on the bottom part of their forewings (the top set of wings, closet to their head.)  If there are three yellow dots in a lower line, it’s a giant swallowtail. If there are four, it’s a Thoas swallowtail.  On your next visit to the Butterfly Wing, test your skills and see if you can determine which is which!

Nathan Brockman, Curator of the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing