Pipevine Swallowtail - Battus philenor

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Adult Pipevine Swallowtail
nectaring at Lantana.

Pipevine Swallowtails have black wings with blue in them with a wingspan of 2.5 - 4 inches. Females have less blue and bigger pale spots on their wings than males. Habitat is mostly brushy or wooded places. Their range includes most of the Eastern US, the southwest and into Mexico.

Pipevine Swallowtail Host Plants

The host plant used by Pipevine Swallowtails are all of the family Aristolochiaceae (pipevine). This includes Aristolochia tomentosa, Aristolochia californica, serpentaria, durior, longiflora, reticulata. Aristolochia californica is used by some populations in California. Females will lay eggs on Aristolochia elegans, but caterpillars will die eating it. Aristolochia serpentaria and reticulata are small herbs, the rest are vines.

Since Pipevine is poisonous to vertebrates, adult Pipevine butterflies are poisonous to birds and other predators that might try to eat them. Because of this Pipevine Swallowtails are mimicked by Spicebush Swallowtails (Papilio troilus), female Black Swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes), black form female Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus), female Speyeria diana and female Limenitis arthemis astyanax.

Pipevine Swallowtail Life Cycle

Pipevine Swallowtail eggs are a reddish/maroon color and laid in groups of up to 20 eggs on the underside of host plant leaves. I have yet to see any actual eggs on my pipevine, so I don't have any pictures of them. The caterpillars are black with red/orange colored spikes all along their bodies.

If fact, I had my pipevine for somewhere between 3 and 5 years before I saw any caterpillars on it and I missed the eggs.

When I found them they were this size already - I think 2nd or 3rd instar:



They were also on the underside of a leaf, so they weren't that easy to find.

Here some are again, some time after the above picture:





Here is one around the 4th instar with a ruler next to it to help gauge its size:



Here's one getting ready to molt. You can see its head capsule doesn't quite fit right. (If you click on the image you can see a bigger version that is a little more clear.)



Here's a 5th instar next to a ruler to show how much bigger they got:



Here's another picture from a different perspective - you can see its head better:



I noticed after a while that mine would tend to crawl off the pipevine at night - I saw them crawling up the side of the house a few times. There are about 4 or 5 in the picture below - notice the one in the upper right, its pretty far away from the plant:



As with most butterfly caterpillars, sometimes you first find them on a plant by finding a bunch of their frass first. In the following picture you can see a bunch that was on one of the pipevine leaves: (If you click on the picture, you can see a bigger version)



Pipevine Swallowtail pupa are very pretty. If the lighting is right you can see purples, oranges and other colors in them. The following two pictures of pupa are taken from the side and the front:





Adults have black wings with blue in them with a wingspan of 2.5 - 4 inches. Females have less blue and bigger pale spots on their wings than males. Their bodies also have some blue on them. They tend to hover next to flowers when getting nectar rather than landing and resting on the plant.

This adult seemed to prefer the red/orange Lantana, shown in picture, and other red flowers over other flowers.



These two pictures were the best I could get of adults with their wings open.




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