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Copyright by: Mary Keim, 2018. Pipevine Swallowtail on Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Large, very dark butterfly with a wingspan measuring up to 5 inches. The black forewing is duller in the female; the hindwing has a single short tail. The upper surface of the hindwing is iridescent blue or blue-green with a submarginal row of pale spots. The underside of the hindwing has a row of 7 submarginal round orange spots. The caterpillar is dark brown to black with rows of short orange tubercules on the back, long black ones on the sides and two longer ones on the front that are used as feelers. The pupa is green or brown with a wide flange on each side of the body.
Southern Connecticut south to Central Florida, west to Arizona; isolated population in California.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common in North and Central Florida early February-early November; stray in South Florida; not present in Keys
A wide variety of open habitats, such as sandhills, scrubby flatwoods, open woodland and woodland edges.
Three or more broods per year in southern states. The reddish-orange eggs are laid singly or in small clusters on the young shoots of the host plants or in larger clusters on older shoots.
This species also is known as the blue swallowtail. Males search around host plants and through the habitat for females. Males suck moisture from mud to get nutrients, including sodium. Adults fly rapidly close to the ground. They flutter their wings while feeding. Young caterpillars may crawl along the ground in search of food if they defoliate a host plant.
Larval host plants include species of pipevine (Aristolochia spp.), such as the native Marsh's dutchman's-pipe (Aristolochia pentandra) and Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpenteria). Adults nectar on flowers, especially pink and purple ones such as thistles (Cirsium spp.), Florida paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus) and ironweed (Vernonia spp) and the nonnative phlox (Phlox spp). Nonnative species of pipevine planted as ornamentals may be distasteful or toxic to the caterpillars. Caterpillars feed in small groups.