University of Minnesota Extension
Menu Menu

Extension > Yard and Garden News > Giant Swallowtails

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Giant Swallowtails

Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist

Wendy Pritchard

Photo 1: It's a treat to see a giant swallowtail

There have been several reports of people seeing giant swallowtails, Papilio cresphontes, in the Twin Cities areas recently (they undoubtedly have been seen in other areas of Minnesota as well). This is noteworthy as these spectacular butterflies are not native to Minnesota but can occasionally be found during the summer as migrants from the south.

You can recognize a giant swallowtail because of its size, its wingspan ranges from 4" - 5 ½", and its black wings with yellow spots; the yellow spots on the forewings form an 'x'. Don't confuse it with a black swallowtail which also has black wings but is smaller, its wingspan is as large as 3 ½" and the yellow spots on its forewings are parallel and do not cross. Giant swallowtails can not reproduce in Minnesota as they need citrus trees and related plants for food for the larvae.


  1. My brother said he saw a Giant Swallowtail in Big Lake, just south of Zimmerman, MN. He got a good look at it and was sure it was a Giant, not a black or tiger swallowtail. This was week of Aug 5-6th.

    1. I was out with my brother today in Zimmerman, MN and saw a Giant Swallowtail myself. My brother saw it too, after I alerted him. It flew right by me slowly, and so I got a good look at it. No question it was a Giant. First time I have ever seen a Giant Swallowtail in Minnesota, and I'm 59 years old so I was amazed. This one was flying in an open field surrounded by woods. It didn't seem to fly as high as Tiger swallowtails often fly.


  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy