Zebra swallowtail butterflies have black and white stripes on their wings that help them blend in with their surroundings. They also fly low to the ground using an erratic flight pattern to avoid predators. Zebra swallowtails have shorter proboscises, the tubes they feed through, than other swallowtails, so they have adapted to find nectar from small, flat flowers like lilac and verbena.
Predators of this butterfly include spiders, ants and wasps. The Zebra swallowtail caterpillar has a y-shaped gland on its neck called the osmeterium that rises up and releases a bad odor when the caterpillar is alarmed. Caterpillars can be green with yellow and black bands or dark brown with orange and white bands.
Zebra swallowtails lay their eggs on their host plant, the pawpaw shrub. Caterpillars eat eggshells and pawpaw leaves upon hatching. Chemicals from the ingested pawpaw leaves remain in the body of the caterpillar and the adult butterfly and help protect them from being eaten by birds. Within a month, the caterpillars turn into adult butterflies. Adult zebra swallowtails have two different forms to match the seasons of spring and summer. Butterflies with the spring form hatch in early April and are smaller and lighter in color with short tails. Butterflies hatched in early June have the summer form and are larger with darker wings and longer tails.