Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Coloration and Size

Spicebush Swallowtail ButterflySpicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

This Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) is generally black, and marked with broad, black hind wings bordered with pale, greenish spots. Hind wings on the male have a blue-green band, and the female has a blue shading.

The Spicebush Swallowtail wing span is in the 3.5" - 4.5" range.

Spicebush Butterfly Distribution and Habitat

This swallowtail ranges throughout the Eastern United States, but is more common in the south. It typically stays close to wooded areas, and close to the ground. In a typical year 2-3 broods are produced.

It can often be found in woodland areas, swamps, stream banks, and residential gardens. Similarities exist with the Black Swallowtail, but wing patterns are somewhat different.

Spicebush Swallowtail Life Cycle Stages and Duration

Stage Typical Duration
Egg stage Generally 4 to 10 days, depending on temperature and host plant
Caterpillar (larval) stage 3 to 4 weeks
Chrysalis (pupal) stage 10 to 20 days (except for overwintering pupae)
Adult butterfly stage 6 to 14 days

Spicebush Caterpillar

Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillarSpicebush Swallowtail caterpillar

The Spicebush caterpillar initially appears as a bird-dropping camouflage, then transforms into a brilliant, bright green "predator" with enormous false "eyes".

They spin silk to tighten a leaf around itself, giving the caterpillar a safe place to hide during the day; they resume feeding at night.

Nectar and Host Plants Used by the Spicebush Swallowtail

The favorite host plants of the Spicebush Swallowtail include spicebush, sassafras, camphor trees, red bay, and sweet bay (see plant images at the bottom of this page).

Nectar plants include verbena, zinnias, milkweed, lantana, periwinkles and other flowers.

Identification of Male and Female Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

A side-by-side comparison of the coloration and markings of the male and female Spicebush Swallowtail is shown below.

Side-by-side comparison of the male and female Eastern Swallowtail butterfly

 

Spicebush Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail Comparison

The chart below shows the differences seen in the ventral views of the similar Black Swallowtail and the Spicebush Swallowtail. The Spicebush has a bluish-green colored "swosh" and is missing one orange spot.

Comparison of Black Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail ventral markings

Photos of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

Female Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (8/3/2014)
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying milkweed (8/3/2014)
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying milkweed

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly



Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (dorsal view)
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

"The Chase" ... male Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (left) with its greenish coloration
pursues the female with her blue coloration

Two Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies on Pink Pentas

"The Chase" continues ... male Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (bottom right) in pursuit of the female
Two Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies on Pink Pentas


Two Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies in flight

Two Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies in flight

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (ventral view) on Milkweed
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly on Milkweed

Close-up view of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly on Milkweed
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly on Milkweed

Close-up view of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly in flight
Close-up view of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly in flight


Male Spicebush Swallowtail (to the right) pursues female (on the left)

Male Spicebush Swallowtail (to the right) pursues female (on the left)


Female Spicebush Swallowtail with large part of her right wing missing ... but still flying from one Zinnia to the next, with no problem! Perseverance personified! (09/06/2014)

Female Spicebush Swallowtail with large part of her right wing missing ... but still flying from one Zinnia to the next, with no problem! Perseverance personified!


Another Spicebush Swallowtail with large part of left wing missing (08/02/2016)

Female Spicebush Swallowtail with large part of her right wing missing ... but still flying from one Zinnia to the next, with no problem! Perseverance personified!


Photo of Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Photos of Spicebush Swallowtail Host Plants

Sassafras Tree in the woods (staff photo)
Sassafras Tree in Texas woods

Sassafras Tree
Sassafras Tree in Texas woods

Spicebush Plant
Spicebush Plant



Spicebush Leaves
Spicebush Plant

Spicebush with red berries in the fall
Spicebush with red berries in the fall

Camphor Tree
Camphor Tree

Red Bay Tree
Red Bay Tree in Texas