All About the Black Butterfly with Yellow Stripes

Butterflies dazzle us with their colorful wings and delicate beauty. Of all the butterfly species found in North America, one of the most striking is the large black butterfly emblazoned with bright yellow stripes – a living emblem of bold contrast. So what exactly is this captivating black butterfly with vibrant yellow bands? The swallowtail known as the black butterfly with yellow stripes is the Eurytides marcellus, one of over 600 species of swallowtail butterflies. In this comprehensive guide, we will uncover everything you need to know about this stunning butterfly, from its identifying features and lifecycle to the best places to spot this butterfly in nature. You’ll also learn some surprising facts about this familiar yet mysterious butterfly and its essential role as a pollinator. Let’s take flight with nature’s black and yellow beauty!

An Up-Close Look at the Black Butterfly’s Distinctive Markings

The black butterfly with yellow stripes stops us in our tracks with its bold, graphic colors and large size. This butterfly boasts a wingspan of 2.5 to 4.5 inches, making it one of the larger butterflies found in North and Central America.

The most prominent features of this species are its jet-black forewings and hindwings. From a distance, this swallowtail appears to be entirely deep black. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice vibrant yellow bands and spots decorating the black background.

The upper portions of the forewings and hindwings feature striking yellow bands that stretch horizontally across. These bright stripes contrast elegantly with the dark wings.

Smaller yellow spots also dot the black forewings. The hindwings display a row of smaller yellow spots near the body as well as dramatic long tails. These signature “tails” set swallowtails apart from other butterflies.

The underside of the wings tend to be more muted black with gray banding and yellow markings. The body itself is mostly black with yellow spots. Females may also exhibit a bluish cast.

Where to Find Black Butterflies with Yellow Stripes Flying Near You

The black and yellow barred butterfly primarily resides in North America, ranging from Canada south to Florida and Mexico. This species thrives throughout the eastern and central United States.

It prefers open, sunny habitats like meadows, fields, parks, backyards, and gardens. Areas with access to woods and water sources are also ideal. You may spot them at marshy streams and ponds, sipping moisture from wet sand or mud. Look for them hovering over mountain meadows as well.

This butterfly extends south into Central America and can be found in countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Belize. Related subspecies occur in the Caribbean islands too.

The summer months are the optimal time to search for this sun-loving butterfly. They are active from spring to early fall with peak populations from mid to late summer.

To increase your chances of observing the black and yellow swallowtail, head out during midday when they are most active. Watch for them patrolling meadows in search of nectar plants and sunny hilltop perches. Quietly approach any bushy vegetation blossoming with small white or purple flowers, a favorite nectar source. You may catch a glimpse of wings with contrasting bands!

What Plants Do Black and Yellow Striped Butterfly Caterpillars Eat?

While the adult butterfly feasts on flower nectar, the caterpillar stage has different dietary needs focused on leafy matter.

The larvae or caterpillars hatch from eggs laid singly on the leaves of host plants. Once emerged, they begin voraciously munching on the foliage. Favorite caterpillar foods include:

  • Pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba)
  • Currants and gooseberries (Ribes species)
  • Cherries, plums, and peaches (Prunus species)
  • Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
  • Sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum)

Caterpillars have a striking appearance with black and yellow bands mimicking the adult. They grow over 2 inches long, eventually forming a jade green chrysalis where they will overwinter until emerging in the spring.

The Vital Role of Black and Yellow Butterflies As Pollinators

With their wide wingspans and penchant for nectaring at bloom-filled meadows, these butterflies are important pollinators of native wildflowers. As they flit from flower to flower, they transfer pollen grains on their legs and bodies, enabling plant reproduction and fruit formation.

Some of the wildflowers dependent on this butterfly include:

  • Milkweeds
  • Joe-Pye weeds
  • Asters
  • Coneflowers
  • Ironweeds
  • Lilacs
  • Privet

This species also pollinates fruit trees and crops when it visits orchard and garden blossoms. Home gardeners can attract these helpful butterflies to their vegetable patches or berry crops by growing nectar-rich flowers nearby.

The Lifecycle of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly

The black swallowtail undergoes a complete metamorphosis with four stages:


  • Females lay single eggs on host plant leaves
  • Eggs are round and green, later turning beige
  • Hatch after 4-10 days


  • Caterpillars eat leaves of host plants
  • Molt several times as they grow
  • Have black bands and yellow dots
  • Form chrysalis after 2-3 weeks as caterpillar


  • Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly
  • Chrysalises are jade green and camouflage on plants
  • Overwinter dormant in chrysalis to pupate


  • Emerge from chrysalis as adult butterflies in late spring
  • Expand wings, dry out, then take first flight
  • Sip flower nectar for energy
  • Live 2-6 weeks during breeding season

Surprising Facts About this Striking Butterfly

Beyond its bold wings, this butterfly has some hidden talents:

  • Males patrol sunlit hilltops, scanning for females. Once mating is complete, females fly off to lay eggs.
  • An unpleasant taste deters potential predators. Birds learn to avoid this species after sampling their noxious flavor.
  • The long swallowtail tails confuse predators as the butterfly flies, diverting attacks away from its body.
  • Adults practice hilltopping, congregating on summits and ridgelines to find mates.
  • A talented leaf mimic, the chrysalis blends into foliage with its green, mottled case.
  • One of the largest butterflies found in eastern North America, rivaling the famous monarchs in size.

How to Attract Black and Yellow Striped Butterflies to Your Garden

Here are some tips for making your yard or garden more inviting to these special butterflies:

  • Plant nectar-producing flowers they favor like lilacs, ironweed, and privet.
  • Include host plants for caterpillars like spicebush, cherries, or pawpaw trees.
  • Provide damp ground or shallow dishes with wet sand or soil to serve as mud puddles.
  • Position feeders with fruit, especially overripe bananas, which they may sip for nutrients.
  • Supply shrubs, trees, or trellises as sunning spots and shelter from wind and rain.
  • Avoid pesticides that may be toxic to these and other pollinators.

With the right habitat, you’ll be rewarded with a flutter of black wings accented with sunny yellow as these butterflies come to dine!

In Summary

The black butterfly elegantly patterned with bright yellow stripes and spots is truly one of nature’s flying masterpieces. This eastern swallowtail dazzles with its bold colors and graceful, swirling flight. Now that you know more about the black and yellow butterfly’s life stages, behaviors, and ecological roles, be sure to marvel at its beauty should you be lucky enough to cross its path during sunny days in meadowlands or your own backyard. The next time you admire this butterfly’s striking wings, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for its transformed life and vital contributions to the ecosystem.


  • Faris

    I am the author and owner of, a website where I share my deep passion and extensive knowledge about the fascinating world of insects. As a dedicated entomologist and naturalist, I bring years of hands-on experience studying and observing a diverse array of species, from butterflies and deer flies to cockroaches and beyond. Through this platform, I aim to educate, inspire, and dispel common misconceptions about the vital roles insects play in ecosystems. In addition to curating informative and engaging content for the website, I actively contribute to entomological research and conservation efforts, driven by my lifelong fascination with the remarkable insects that inhabit our world.

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