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Tennessee State Butterfly
Adopted in 1995.
The Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, was designated as Tennessee's official butterfly by Public Chapter 896 of the 99th General Assembly in 1995. This beautiful, winged insect has black and white stripes that run the length of its body with red and blue spots on its lower back. The swallowtail grows from a tiny egg into a caterpillar that eventually molts into its pupal stage and is transformed into this striking butterfly that can be found throughout most of the United States.
2 1/2 - 4 inches (6.4 - 10.4 cm). They are called swallowtails because they have long "tails" on their hindwings which look a bit like the long, pointed tails of swallows (a type of bird).
Upper surface of wings with black stripes on pale whitish-green background; hindwings have very long tails. Early-spring form is smaller and lighter colored.
Adult males fly in the understory near host plants to find females. Females lay single green eggs on lower leaves of host plant. Caterpillars live and feed on the underside of these leaves, then pupate and hibernate there.
Moisture from sand and nectar from flowers including blueberry, blackberry, lilac, redbud, viper's bugloss, verbena, dogbane, and common milkweed.
Breeds in moist low woodlands near swamps and rivers. Adults fly to nectar plants in open fields and brushy areas.
The zebra swallowtail is widely distributed from southern New England west to southern Minnesota and south to eastern Texas and Florida.
Many states have selected insects as one of their state symbols, however nine states (out of 50) have no official state insect as of 2008.