Unlike the common tiger swallowtail that we are all familiar with, the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) is also habitat specific that we do not often see it, although common if you are in the right habitat.
Zebra Swallowtails, called as such for their stripes on the body and wings and with extra long tails, are closely associated with the understory shrub/small tree called Paw Paw. You will never find a Zebra far from them.
Zebra’s lay single green eggs on paw paw leaves and the eventual caterpillars feed on the leaves.
The caterpillars ingest chemicals called annonaceous acetogenins from their host plant, which are retained in the body tissue of both the caterpillar and the adult, and help chemically protect the butterfly from birds.
Paw Paw can be found in both the Piedmont and coastal plain, although more common in the coastal plain. They occur in rich forested side slopes and floodplains of mature woodlands. I observed this butterfly along Chicamuxen Creek near the Potomac River, in Charles County, MD.