Floridata Article

Pipevine Swallowtail< (Battus philenor)

Pipevine Swallowtail
A male Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly
Habitat: Open woodlands, forest edges, old fields, roadsides, and pastures Garden Abundance: Moderate Wingspan: 2.75 to 4.5in Range: Primarily the southern two thirds of North America from Maine to California and Manitoba, south to southern Mexico Larval Host Plants: Pipevines (Aristolochia spp.) including virgin snakeroot (A. serpentaria), calico flower (A. elegans), wooly pipevine (A. tomentosa), and Dutchman's pipe (A. macrophylla) Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), thistles (Cirsium spp.), tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)

Appearing almost completely black from a distance, the pipevine swallowtail has a rapid, low flight. The sexes are similar, but males can be distinguished from females by their stunning blue-green iridescent hind wings. On the underside, both sexes have a row of bright orange spots along the outer edge of each hind wing. This is the only North American member of the genus Battus to have tails.

The larva of the pipevine swallowtail is velvety black with orange spots and numerous fleshy tubercles. These projections resemble the legs of a centipede and serve to quickly differentiate the pipevine larva from any other caterpillar. The larvae feed on pipevines (Aristolochia spp.) and incorporate the toxic chemicals produced by the plants for their own projection. The black and orange coloration of both the larva and adult butterfly helps to warn predators of their foul taste. As a result, several other butterflies such as the Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail, and Red-Spotted Purple mimic the toxic Pipevine Swallowtail to gain protection from would-be predators.

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