Large butterfly with a wingspan up to 5-1/8 inches. The upperside is dark brown to black with yellow bands. The broad yellow postmedian band is broken on the forewing but entire on the hindwing. The hindwing has a single black tail with a central yellow stripe. The thorax and abdomen are black with yellow stripes. The caterpillar is green above, with a pale brown head, and pinkish-brown below, with a yellow lateral line, a row of small blue spots on each abdominal segment and a yellow osmeterium. There are two large tan false eyespots on the thorax, with a large black center and a white area above. There is a small orange patch on the back with a blue spot on the leading edge. Older caterpillars are pale yellow. The chrysalis is green or pinkish-brown.
Southeastern United States and Mexico; strays to New York in the north in the United States and to Cuba in the West Indies.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common to abundant in West Florida mid-February to late October; common to abundant in North Florida mid-January to late October; common to abundant all year in Central Florida and South Florida; scarce in the Keys.
Swamps, hammocks and flatwoods; also agricultural areas and roadsides.
At least three broods per year in Florida. The spherical, cream-colored or pale yellowish-green eggs are laid singly on the young leaves of host plants.
Adults beat their wings continuosly while feeding. They sip minerals and water from mud. During a mating flight, the female flies near the ground and the male flies a foot or two above the female.
Native larval host plants include the cultivated trees red bay (Persea borbonia var. borbonia), swamp bay (Persea palustris) and sweet-bay (Magnolia virginiana); scrub bay (Persea borbonia var. humilis) also is a probable larval host plant. Native nectar plants include coastal sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), the cultivated wildflower purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum), the weedy Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata), swamp azalea (Rhododenron viscosum) and other species of Rhododendron and possibly Virginia iris (Iris virginica).