Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Coloration and Size
Spicebush 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
|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 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.
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.
Photos of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies
Female Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (8/3/2014)
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying milkweed (8/3/2014)
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (dorsal view)
"The Chase" ... male Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (left) with its greenish coloration
pursues the female with her blue coloration
"The Chase" continues ... male Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (bottom right) in pursuit of the female
Two Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies in flight
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (ventral view) on Milkweed
Close-up view of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly on Milkweed
Close-up view of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly in flight
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)
Another Spicebush Swallowtail with large part of left wing missing (08/02/2016)
Photo of Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Photos of Spicebush Swallowtail Host Plants
Sassafras Tree in the woods (staff photo)
Spicebush with red berries in the fall
Red Bay Tree