Table of Contents for Columbus, OH Swallowtail Butterflies
Columbus, Ohio is the capital city of the state of Ohio in the United States. Situated in the center of the state, the Columbus area is within hardiness zone 6, and there are six species of swallowtail butterflies that you can host in your garden. Towards the end of the post, be sure to test your knowledge of Columbus, Ohio swallowtail butterflies.
Location of the Columbus, OH Metro Area
The Columbus, Ohio metro area covers ten counties in Ohio including Franklin, Delaware, Licking, Fairfield, Union, Pickaway, Madison, Perry, Morrow, and Hocking Counties. For the purposes of this post we will be covering the City of Columbus and Franklin County.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio and Franklin County is located in zone 6a. When selecting plants you will want to get those that can handle temperatures as cold as -10F to be sure they will survive.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) and its host plants in Columbus, OH
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
The pipevine swallowtail flies throughout the United States, except for the Pacific Northwest. It has orange-brown eggs that are laid on the host plant. The black to brown to red caterpillar with orange markings comes out in the spring. They then overwinter as a pupa (Monroe and Wright 2017). In the spring and into the summer the adult butterflies start to fly. They have a wingspan of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) to 5 inches (12.7 cm) inches and are black colored with white markings.
Plants that Host the Pipevine Swallowtail
The Pipevine Swallowtail is generally hosted by members of the birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae). In the Columbus, OH area these include:
- Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense): a herbaceous plant.
- Virginia Snakeroot (Endodeca serpentaria): a herbaceous plant. This plant is also known commonly as Aristolochia serpentaria.
Giant Swallowtail (Papilo cresphontes) and its host plants in Columbus, OH
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)
The giant swallowtail flies throughout the United States and southeast Canada, except for the northwest. Beyond North America it ranges into Central America and the Caribbean Islands. It is the largest butterfly in North America (Wikipedia). It has brownish-orange eggs that are laid on the host plants. The caterpillars have five stages or instars before pupating, which takes about two weeks. The adult butterflies have a wingspans ranging from about 5.5 inches (14 cm) to 7.5 inches (19.1 cm) and are black and yellow colored.
Plants that Host the Giant Swallowtail
The giant swallowtail is hosted by members of the Rutaceae, of which there are three primary plants in the Columbus area. These include:
- Toothache tree (Zanthoxylum americanum) — a small to medium sized tree
- Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) — a rare small tree in Pennsylvania
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) and its host plants in Columbus, OH
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
The black swallowtail flies in most of the United States, except for the Northwest. The yellow eggs are laid on the host plants and take about a week to hatch. The caterpillars are at first black colored but later have green, black, and yellow coloring and last from a week to a month. The butterflies then survive the winter as a chrysalis.
The adults have a wingspan of 2.5 (6.4 cm) to 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) and are black colored with yellow spots along the wings and a red eyepsot near the tail on the top. The underside has orange spots.
Plants that Host the Black Swallowtail
The black swallowtail is a generalist and uses members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) as host plants. Some examples of carrot family members in Columbus include:
- Purple-stem Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea): a herbaceous plant
- Hairy Angelica (Angelica venenosa): a herbacous plant
- Spreading Chervil (Chaerophyllum procumbens): a herbaceous plant
- Spotted Water-Hemlock (Cicuta maculata): a herbaceous plant
- Hairy Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii): a herbaceous plant
- Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis): a herbaceous plant
- Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa): a herbaceous plant
- Black Snakeroot (Sanicula trifoliata): a herbaceous plant
- Heart-leaf Alexander (Zizia aptera): a herbaceous plant
- Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea): a herbaceous plant
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and its host plants in Columbus, OH
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
The Eastern Tiger swallowtail flies in the mid-western and eastern United States from the Rocky Mountains and east. In the Eastern US it is likely one of the most distinctive swallowtails. The light green eggs are laid on the host plants. The caterpillar has five stages; with the first three a brown color and the last two as a green color. The brown chrysalis is placed in on trunks or on fallen leaves.
The adults have a wingspan of 3 inches (7.6 cm) to 5.5 inches (14 cm) and have two color schemes. The yellow and black is the most distinctive, but the females also have a dark black phase that mimics the pipevine swallowtail (see image). Generally there are two broods in Pennsylvania (Monroe and Wright 2017) and the same is probably true in Ohio.
Plants that Host the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
The eastern tiger swallowtail is a generalist and uses members of a number of genera as host plants. Some species in Columbus area include:
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilo troilus) and its host plants in Columbus, OH
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)
The spicebush swallowtail flies in the mid-western and eastern United States. The greenish eggs are laid on the leaves of spicebush. The caterpillars are brown at first but then turn yellow. The chrysalis is attached to leaves on the ground.
The adults have a wingspan of 3 inches (7.6 cm) to 4 inches (10.2 cm) and are black with white spots along the bottom and a red eyespot on the bottom middle.
Plants that Host the Spicebush Swallowtail
As the common name would suggest, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail as is the sassafras (Sassafras albidum), both of which are members of the Laurel Family (Lauraceae). Both of these species are found in the Columbus area. It is noted in the literature that the spicebush swallowtail only feeds on members of the Lauraceae (Scriber et al 2008).
Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) and its host plants in Columbus, OH
Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus)
The Zebra swallowtail flies in the mid-western and eastern United States. The green to brown eggs are laid on the leaves of the host plant, which is the pawpaw. The caterpillars have two color variations, first black and then later stages are more colorful with green and yellow stripes. The brown chrysalis can overwinter in places of cold temperatures (Wikipedia).
The black and white multi-colored adults have a wingspan of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) to 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) and fly from February to December with a more restricted season in more northern places. The early season brood can be smaller and has a shorter tail than the later summer brood that is larger and has a long tail (animaldiversity.org).
Plants that Host the Zebra Swallowtail
The zebra swallowtail uses members of the Custard Apple Family (Annonaceae) as host plants. In the Columbus area, pawpaw (Asimina triloba), an understory tree, is used as a host.
Nectar Plants to Consider Putting in Your Garden
While the swallowtails need certain species of plants to use as hosts, the adults also need nectar plants to visit in order get nourishment. Nectar plants can also help other insects such as bees. Some common nectar plants that can be grown in the Columbus, OH area include:
Frequently Asked Questions
How much land do I need to start a butterfly garden?
Every plant that you can grow can make a difference for visitors to your garden, especially in urban areas. Potted plants are also useful en masse for pollinators. When planting your garden, make sure you plant both the host plants and nectar plants for the adults to feed on.
Where should I get my plants?
For pollinators, it is best to have native plant species. The insects will be used to these plants more than ones from other places. Be sure you get your plants from a reputable nursery does not use neocontinids that would harm visitors to your garden.
Are there gardens near me, where I can see an example of a butterfly garden?
There are several gardens in the Columbus Area that can be visited in order to get ideas for your Butterfly Garden. These include the:
Franklin Park Conservancy and Botanical Gardens: a park in Columbus that has wildlife gardens and other gardens.
Grange Insurance Audubon Center: Nature Center that has gardens of interest to birds.
Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens: an arboretum in Columbus that has native plant gardens.
Inniswood Metro Gardens: a municipal garden in Westerville, OH that a number of natural gardens.
The Dawes Arboretum: an arboretum in Newark, OH east of Columbus that has native meadow and woodland gardens.
Test your Knowledge on Columbus, Ohio Swallowtails
Books where you can find out more about Butterfly Gardening in the Columbus, OH Area
- Adelman, Charlotte and Bernard L. Schwartz. 2017. Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees – Gardening Alternatives to Nonnative Species. Ohio University Press. 464 pp.
- Daniels, Jaret C. 2022. Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees & Butterflies. Lower Midwest – Nature Friendly Gardens. Adventure Publications. 280 pp.
- Daniels, Jaret C. 2023. Butterflies of the Midwest Field Guide – Butterfly Identification Guides. Adventure Publications. 364 pp.
- Daniels, Jaret C. 2022. Garden Bugs & Insects of the Midwest – Identify Pollinators, Pests, and Other Garden Visitors – Adventure Quick Guides. Adventure Publications. 36 pp.
- Kavanagh, James and Raymond Leung. 2020. Ohio Butterflies & Pollinators – A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species – Wildlife and Nature Identification. Waterford Press. 12 pp.
- Kellerman, William Ashbrook. 2022. Spring Flora of Ohio Consisting of Descriptions of the Early Native Flowering Plants. Creative Media Partners, LLC. 136 pp.
- Kline, Christopher. 2020. If You Plant It They Will Come – A Butterfly Habitat Creation Success Story. Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center. 134 pp.
- Kline, Christopher. 2020. The Moths of Butterfly Ridge – A Beginners Guide to Attracting and Identifying Moths in Ohio. Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center. 358 pp.
- McCormac, Jim and Chelsea Gottfried. 2023. Gardening for Moths – A Regional Guide. Ohio University Press. 472 pp.
Affiliate Disclosure: When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate programs include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Blackwell’s Books.
- Monroe, James L. and David M. Wright. 2017. Butterflies of Pennsylvania. (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press). 304 pp.
- Scriber, Mark J., Michelle L. Larsen, and Myron P. Zalucki. 2008. Responses of North American Papilio troilus and P. glaucus to potential hosts from Australia. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 62: 18-30.