Battus philenor

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Pipevine Swallowtail
Battus philenor 02.jpg
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Papilionidae
Tribe: Troidini
Genus: Battus
Species: B. philenor
Binomial name
Battus philenor
(Linnaeus, 1771)

see text

The Pipevine Swallowtail or Blue Swallowtail (Battus philenor)[1][2] is a swallowtail butterfly found in North America and Central America. The butterflies are black with iridescent blue hind wings. They are found in many different habitats, but are most commonly found in forests.[3] The black or red caterpillars feed on Aristolochia species, making them poisonous as both larvae and adults, while the adults feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers.


Dorsal view
For a key to the terms used, see Lepidopteran glossary

The upper surface of the hind wings are an iridescent blue or blue-green with pale, arrow-head markings. Males have brighter metallic regions than females.[4] The underside of the hind wing has seven orange submarginal spots surrounded by iridescent blue.[5] Both surfaces of the fore wings are black or dull blackish-brown.[4][6] Individuals of the Northern California subspecies, Battus philenor hirsuta, are smaller and hairier.[7] Pipevine Swallowtails can have a wingspan to up to three and a half inches. Battus philenor can usually be found in fields, meadows, gardens, parks, open woods, roadsides and stream sides.Pipevine Swallowtail [1]


Listed alphabetically.[2]

Similar species[edit]

The Pipevine Swallowtail is mimicked by many species, including the dark morph female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), the Spicebush Swallowtail (P. troilus), the Black Swallowtail (P. polyxenes), the Ozark Swallowtail (P. joanae), the sympatric subspecies Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), and the female Diana Fritillary (Speyeria diana).[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The butterfly ranges from across USA to Mexico, Islas Marías and onto Guatemala and Costa Rica.[2][6] It rarely strays into southern Ontario.[5] In the United States, the butterfly is found in New England down to Florida west to Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Oregon.[2]

Flight period[edit]

The Pipevine Swallowtail is seen from April to October in the northern portion of its range and from February to November in the southern portion. There are two broods in the north and three or more in the south.[8]

Life cycle[edit]

Pipevine Swallowtail larva
Pipevine Swallowtail chrysalis

Males patrol for females in suitable habitats. Females will lay clusters of one to twenty reddish-brown eggs on the underside of host plant leaves. Young caterpillars are gregarious, while older larvae are solitary.[5][9] The caterpillars will eat the leaves, stems, and seed capsules of the host plant.[9] The larvae are either black or smoky red. Many fleshy filaments project from the sides of the body, the longest being on the anterior end. Over the dorsal part of the body are two rows of orange-red warts.[10] The chrysalis is brown or green, with two horns on the head, a point on the thorax, and a ridge on each side of the abdomen. The abdomen is often patched with yellow.[9] The chrysalis hibernates in areas with cold winters.[8]

Host plants[edit]

Host plants for the caterpillars include the Pipevine (Aristolochia species), including Dutchman's pipe (A. californica), Virginia snake root (A. serpentaria) and others. Pipevines confer a poisonous quality to the larvae and resulting adults, much as the Monarch butterfly obtains protection by feeding on milkweed, or heliconiines by feeding on passion flowers.

Nectar resources[edit]

Adults seek nectar from flowers, including thistles (Cirsium species), bergamot, lilac, viper's bugloss, common azaleas, phlox, teasel, azaleas, dame's rocket, lantana, petunias, verbenas, lupines, yellow star thistle, buckeye, Wild Ginger and butterfly bush,


  1. ^ Beccaloni, G. W.; Scoble, M. J.; Robinson, G. S.; Pitkin, B. (2003). "Card for philenor in LepIndex". The Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex). World Wide Web electronic publication. Retrieved 7 July 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d Savela, Markku. "Battus philenor". Retrieved 2 August 2007. 
  3. ^ Iftner, David C.; Shuey, John A.; Calhoun, John V. (1992). Butterflies and Skippers of Ohio. College of Biological Sciences and The Ohio University. p. 70. ISBN 0-86727-107-8. 
  4. ^ a b Ramos, I. "Battus philenor". Animal Diversity Website. University of Michigan. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Opler, Paul A. "Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Big Sky Institute at Montana State University. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Carter, David (2000). Butterflies and Moths (2nd ed.). London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 55. ISBN 0-7513-2707-7. 
  7. ^ a b Brock, Jim P.; Kaufman, Kenn (2003). Butterflies of North America. New York City, NY:: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 26. ISBN 0-618-15312-8. 
  8. ^ a b Cech, Rick; Tudor, Guy (2005). Butterflies of the East Coast. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-691-09055-6. 
  9. ^ a b c Scott, James A. (1986). The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, CA:: Stanford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0-8047-2013-4. 
  10. ^ Wagner, David L. (2005). Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton, NJ:: Princeton University Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-691-12144-3. 
  • Edwin Möhn, 1999 Schmetterlinge der Erde, Butterflies of the world Part VIII (8), Papilionidae V. New and rare Neotropical Papilionidae. Edited by Erich Bauer and Thomas Frankenbach Keltern : Goecke & Evers ; Canterbury : Hillside Books. ISBN 978-3-931374-75-4, plate 2, f. 3-4, pl. 16, f. 1-2

External links[edit]