Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio canadensis

The Canadian Tiger Swallowtail is a very common and conspicuous butterfly of northern Wisconsin. It is replaced in the south by its close relative, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

The Eastern and the Canadian Tiger Swallowtails used to be considered subspecies, and this has resulted in some confusion. Historical data (from the USGS) grouped these two species together, so there is no pre-2000 data available on these species.

Weekly sightings for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Identifying characteristics

Above: bright yellow with broad black stripes; females are nearly identical to the males. Below: similar to the top side, mainly yellow background with bold black stripes.

Similar species

This speces can be easily confused with the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but only in central Wisconsin where the ranges of the two species overlap. Additionally, since the Canadian has only a single brood that trails off by August, identification becomes much easier in the late summer and fall.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtails have the following characteristics:

  1. The yellow marginal spot band on the front wing below is continuous, while in the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail these are broken into distinct spots (Unfortunately, some Canadian Tiger Swallowtails may have some distinct spots, and the lighting may make it appear as if they are separate. This can be seen in the first photo, where the yellow spots on the top of the wing show through, appearing to be distinct spots underneath.)
  2. The broad, black line on the trailing margin of the hind wing reaches at least halfway to the first vein; in the Eastern this is less than halfway, and in fact it is often considerably less than halfway.

Habitat

Wooded areas, and open areas near woodlands.

Flight

One brood; on the wing in June and July.

Abundance

Common throughout the northern part of the state.

Late Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Sightings

Date County Reported by
Jul 25, 2011 Door Tom Poklen
Jul 27, 2005 Douglas Jim Phillips
Jul 28, 2005 Bayfield Ann & Scott Swengel
Jul 30, 2014 Bayfield Ryan Brady
Aug 9, 2019 Vilas Howard Peitsch

Locations

Map showing sighting locations for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
Map key
Canadian Tiger SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Plainfield TriCounty School Forest, Waushara Co., WI. June 12, 2004.

Canadian Tiger SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Plainfield TriCounty School Forest, Waushara Co., WI. June 12, 2004.

Canadian Tiger SwallowtailClick to enlarge

On wolf scat

Dunbar Barrens SNA, Marinette Co., WI. June 4, 2006.

Canadian Tiger SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Dunbar Barrens SNA, Marinette Co., WI. June 13, 2005.