Yellow and Black Butterflies

Identifying Butterfly Species Based on Color: Yellow and Black Butterflies

The Swallowtails

Swallowtails are a group of butterflies belonging in the family Papilionidae. They are identifiable by their predominantly black and sometimes yellow colored wings and are found almost everywhere in the world except in Antarctica. All in all, there are around 600 species of swallowtails in the world. However, you can only find 30 of them in the United States.

Aside from their coloring, these butterflies are also known for having tails located in their hindwings and for being relatively larger in size. In fact, Swallowtails are the largest kind of butterflies that are found in Great Britain.

Some swallowtails have blue and orange markings mixed in with their usual yellow and black colors with some having more blue pigment than yellow. Anyway, here are some swallowtail butterflies which have prominent yellow and black colors in their wings.

Palamedes Swallowtail

What they look like

  • Has a predominantly black wing color with rounded edges
  • Has yellow spots on the outer edges of the wings
  • Has a V-shaped yellow line above the spots

Scientific Name

Papilio palamedes


11.2 to 13.2 cm


Commonly found in the coastal regions of the southeastern United States

Pipevine Swallowtail

  • Predominantly black but known for its iridescent blue color found in its hindwings
  • Has yellow or orange spots under its wings
  • Relatively smaller than other swallowtails

Scientific Name

Battus philenor


7 to 10 cm


Found in almost all states in the United States

Anise Swallowtail

  • Characterized by its predominantly yellow color
  • The outline of its wings are black
  • Has orange and blue spots on the lower middle part of the wings

Scientific Name

Papilio zelicaon


5 to 8 cm


Found in the mountain region of the western United States

Black Swallowtail

  • Also known as the Eastern black swallowtail and American swallowtail butterfly
  • Has mainly black-colored wings
  • Males have bright yellow spots while females have a duller shade of yellow for spots
  • Distinguished for some black spots encircled in orange located on the rear end of their wings

Scientific Name

Papilio polyxenes


6.7 to 10 cm


Mostly found in the eastern side of the United State’s Rocky Mountain region

Giant Swallowtail

  • Has a light yellow-colored body
  • Has predominantly black-brown wings with large, rounded pale yellow spots located across the wings and its edges

Scientific Name

Papilio cresphontes


14 to 18 cm


Fields and wooded areas of the southern United States

The Zebra Longwing Butterfly

If none of the swallowtail butterflies we mentioned above matched the yellow, black butterfly you’re trying to identify, our last (and best) bet is that it’s a zebra longwing butterfly that you’re looking for.

As its name implies, this butterfly is characterized by its pale yellow and black striped wings. The zebra longwing butterfly (which scientific name is Heliconius charitonia) also has some rows of small yellow spots found on the rear end of its wings.

They are usually found in Florida and some areas in the state of Texas but can also be seen fluttering around in central states during warmer seasons.

Despite being easily startled, zebra longwing butterflies are quite easy to observe because they have a habit of returning to the same spots every day.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for?

Maybe you confused the color of the butterfly you saw? You see, butterfly wings are interesting because they are covered in multiple layers of thousands of really small scales. With light hitting these layers in different ways, some colors may appear as another. Often, what we see is already the combination of the various colors on a butterfly’s wings which may lead to some misidentification.

However, we’d also like to note that predominantly yellow and black-colored butterflies are easier to identify because these two colors are pigment colors instead of structural. This means that the surface colors you see when you spot them out in your garden are the actual colors of their wings regardless of the way the light hits them. Butterflies with blue, purple and white wings can easily appear to have different colored wings.

We hope this article has been helpful in your search! Don’t forget to check out more of our interesting butterfly articles.