My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Tiger Serpent of the forest

Kiss me - I don't smoke

Today we come across this yellow eyed serpent that lives in the forest. We found this guy while hiking along the North Country Trail here in Allegany State Park with a group of people (Thanks Lynn for finding him). This was my first time seeing any serpent like this before and to be honest . . . . I thought it looked just like Barney the Dinosaur (can you hear the music yet?).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Ok . . . . this really isn’t any serpent creature and it is only a few inches in length. This is the caterpillar of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and very exciting find for everyone. When disturbed they pull their head close to their body (forming its serpent head) and then waves back and forth to intimidate their predators (which you can see in the video below).

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one of the most commonly known butterflies here in the East Coast and found along large fields of deciduous forests (sometimes in gardens). Their diet consists of the leaves from Black Cherry, Birch, Aspen and even the Tulip Tree. I was reading that some of their earlier instars give the caterpillars the appearance of bird scat (like the Spicebush Swallowtail)! I have seen a few photos of the later instars being bright green and then the caterpillars last instar turning brown in color! This individual was traveling along the forest floor and probably looking for a location to transform into its pupa stage (to emerge as an adult in the spring).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

The adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is commonly seen grouping together along mud puddles “puddling” or obtaining nectar from multiple flower types. They are yellow in color, with 4 black tiger stripes going down their wings. They also have some blue coloring on the hind wing. Some females can be found in the black form which they are trying to mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail. Even though these guys are not tigers or even any serpents of the forest . . . . they are certainly one of my favorite butterflies of the forest!

Tiger Swallowtail

”Puddling” Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

29 responses

  1. Wow!That is so neat looking, I thought they were all done with the caterpillar to butterfly stuff by now.-I guess I’ve got some learning to do.

    20 September 2007 at 7:01 pm

  2. Marg

    Me too-thought all that caterpillar stuff was done by now-the things I learn from you Tom! I love that caterpillar so freaky looking but we know he/she? will grow up to be a BEAUTY

    How’d you get to see so many Swallowtails? 😛

    20 September 2007 at 7:23 pm

  3. OMG Tom, this is sooo cool! I’ve never noticed this caterpillar before. What a great find and great photos / video!

    20 September 2007 at 7:30 pm

  4. I always thought their caterpillars were greener, but I guess the later instars have more color to them. Thanks for sharing!

    20 September 2007 at 8:20 pm

  5. How interesting is that. I’ve never seen a caterpillar like that. the butterflies are beautiful too. This blog never disappoints.

    20 September 2007 at 8:36 pm

  6. Excellent video clip! I have never seen anything like this, but they are likely easy to miss.

    20 September 2007 at 8:38 pm

  7. How amazing! They sure do look cartoonish. I’m amazed at all the creatures you seem to find on your walks out in the forest. I need to keep looking around instead of down at my feet when I hike. Maybe I’d see some of these creatures. Very interesting video!

    20 September 2007 at 8:43 pm

  8. Well Tom you just made my day. It has not been good till now. thanks I love these finds of yours.

    20 September 2007 at 8:54 pm

  9. @ Larry – many caterpillars running around still. We also had woollybears out their!
    @ Marg – I even saw a monarch caterpillars last week! They are very common around here Marg and it’s called puddling when they get in groups like that!
    @ Pam – thanks and they are great for sure!
    @ Marty – they are but just before they pupate they turn brown! But, could be their last instar, not really sure!
    @ Barb – Glad not to be disappointing you or anyone else! I am just glad to have found this guy because each morning when I wake up “I don’t have a clue” what I am blogging about!
    @ Ruth – thanks and long story on how this was found but so many things are easily overlooked! I wish I could have a superpower which let me see all the birds in the trees and critters under logs, etc. . . . wouldn’t that be ace?
    @ Erie – thanks and they do look cartoonish! If you don’t walk you don’t find anything but if you walk and don’t look, you don’t find! I guess it is good to know that by my posting these shots that others might be more observant with the many things around us! Do note that I am not the one who found this guy! Their was a group of 6 of us and 5 of us walked right by him (or her)!
    @ Toni – that makes me feel good knowing that I helped make your day! 🙂

    20 September 2007 at 8:58 pm

  10. Wow, Tom, that puddling photo is fantastic! I saw some cloudless sulfurs puddling last weekend, but they certainly can’t compare to a bunch of tiger swallowtails!

    The caterpillar pictures are pretty amazing too (less scary for me than the millipede)

    20 September 2007 at 9:33 pm

  11. Are you kidding me, this is great, but the Barney analogy is going to give me nightmares… I keep hearing his voice 🙂

    20 September 2007 at 9:49 pm

  12. montucky

    Very interesting! That’s something I’ve never seen before.

    20 September 2007 at 10:57 pm

  13. So much better than the one million leg insects. I love the photos from this. The butterflies are awesome. One time when my sister-in-law was a child she went out to the pear orchard behind their house and there were thousands of Monarches covering the fruit. She said she stood in awe of such a miraculous thing. ~nita~

    20 September 2007 at 11:48 pm

  14. Didi

    Awesome video ! and such a great find.
    I’ve seen the caterpillar and they do look..
    behave like snakes.
    Are all the butterflies puddling males? That’s strange.
    Thanks for the excellent info Tom.

    21 September 2007 at 12:31 am

  15. Oh my! What a comical looking little guy! Amazing that he becomes such a beautiful butterfly. A face only a mother could love! Guess that means we ALL have potential, hey? ;c)

    21 September 2007 at 6:48 am

  16. @ Ruthie – thanks and those sulfurs are so fun to watch! I have seen a larger group of sulphurs once than the number of swallowtails! Swallowtails just have the size to them.
    @ Bernie – hmm, maybe that’s why I couldn’t sleep last night, Barney was giving me nightmares??
    @ montucky – thanks and this guy was neat!
    @ Nita – glad you like this guy better and I two like these guys! Those must have been some monarch butterflies that were moving south together! Up north we don’t see that too often but down south it’s commonly seen from what I hear!
    @ Didi – thanks and was glad to have the chance to photograph it! hmm, I would think maybe more that they are all females! They are gathering up minerals and nurturance from the mud but could be both sexes! I will have to check into that!
    @ Jayne – he was great to find and had never seen them in this form before! I probably should have brought it home and kept over the winter (but I decided to leave it as is)!

    21 September 2007 at 8:04 am

  17. Andrea

    That is the neatest thing I have ever seen. LOVE the video!!!!

    21 September 2007 at 9:16 am

  18. Great photos! The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the state butterfly of Virginia where I live. I love to watch them fly all summer. But, I have looked high and low for the caterpillars to no avail. I don’t have the eye that your friend has.

    21 September 2007 at 10:10 am

  19. I am sitting here with my jaw dropped, Tom. What a magnificent creature! What a gift from nature! Thank you so much for sharing these pictures and great video!

    21 September 2007 at 10:34 am

  20. Another fabulous, fascinating post! Thank you for all you share with those of us that are not out in nature every day.

    21 September 2007 at 11:28 am

  21. gardenqueen

    Very cool. I can’t believe how detailed the eye spots are.

    21 September 2007 at 1:08 pm

  22. I laughed so HARD when I saw that video! Trying to be scary, but just too adorable! I love his pretend eyes 🙂 Great photos.

    21 September 2007 at 5:14 pm

  23. @ Andrea – thanks and was fun shooting!
    @ Joan – thanks and I didn’t know that about it being the state butterfly of Virginia.
    @ Lisa – thanks and they are neat for sure! Glad you enjoyed
    @ Zen – thanks and why not be with nature every day?
    @ Gardenqueen – thanks and the spicebush swallowtail has bigger eyes.
    @ Chicago – thanks and they are cute for sure! Thanks!

    21 September 2007 at 6:11 pm

  24. What a find! The video clip is so good. It’s an adorable little creature producing a beautiful work of art!


    21 September 2007 at 8:08 pm

  25. Moe

    Great find and absolutely amazing photos!

    21 September 2007 at 10:47 pm

  26. Soooo cool! I’ve never seen that one before. Great post!


    22 September 2007 at 12:44 pm

  27. @ Mary – thanks and they are the ones that are so interesting!
    @ Moe – thanks!
    @ Nick – thanks!

    22 September 2007 at 2:20 pm

  28. Marg

    Hey Tom-I found this one on Flickr and he sticks his tongue out!

    I also linked to this video for him to see

    24 September 2007 at 11:40 am

  29. Kristie

    Hi there,

    I was just trying to identify a caterpillar and am so thankful to have come across your site! I live in Georgia and was hanging out in the front yard and noticed one of these moving across the grass. What fun!! And then to see how beautiful it will become. Thanks for sharing the great info. I took a bunch of photos and a video and then set him free…

    13 September 2008 at 4:18 pm

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