SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY

Post last updated: September 10th, 2019

The Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus) looks much like the Black Swallowtail but for an orange dot that is missing on the underside of the hindwing (lower wings). It ranges on the East Coast from Canada to Florida and, similarly, from the Great Lakes to East Texas in the Midwest.  A smaller subspecies, Papilio troilus ilioneus is found mostly in Florida.

 

HABITAT

Deciduous woodlands, fields, pine barrens, roadsides, wooded swamps, and yards on sunny days.

 

APPEARANCE

The forewing (upper wings) is black with ivory spots along the edge. The hindwing has fluorescent blue or green color with that same color appearing in the hindwing spots. Where the hindwings come together are two orange spots. The underside of the hindwing also has two rows of orange spots. Between these spots, a faded version of the color on the upper hindwing seems to bleed through from the front. Wing span is from 3 to 4 inches.

Spicebush Swallowtail black with blue markings and two orange eyes with tails near middle tail of wing
Spicebush Swallowtail slightly out of focus
Photo by Cee

 

Spicebush Butterfly on Yesterday Today and Tomorrow Bush
Spicebush Butterfly on Yesterday Today and Tomorrow Bush

 

Spicebush swallowtail with wings not quite flat on red penta
Spicebush swallowtail on red penta
Photo by Cee

 

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly on Powder Puff
Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly on Powder Puff

 

My favorite book for identifying butterflies is the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America: The easiest guides for fast identification by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman (2003). I also use two pamphlets published by the Florida Museum of Natural History (University of Florida) Monarchs and Milkweeds and Florida Wildflowers & Butterflies which I picked up free at a gardening event. The two pamphlets are almost the same size as my Kaufman Field Guide making the Guide the perfect place to store them.

LIFE CYCLE

Adult butterflies breed during the summer when food is abundant. The female carefully chooses a host plant for the egg and leaves. The egg looks like a bright, white pearl found on the underside of leaves. After 4 – 10 days, the larval stage begins with a caterpillar that initially camouflages itself as bird droppings. During the caterpillar stage, which lasts 3 to 4 weeks, it will fold itself inside a leaf edge to resemble a snake with two large false eyes. The caterpillar may even change color as it matures. From there, it enters the chrysalis stage for another 10 to 20 days. Once the butterfly hatches, it will live as an adult for 6 to 14 days.

 

WHAT TO PLANT FOR THE SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL

Host plants – Obviously, the Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a good choice if it grows in your Zone, and the Sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), and Redbay (Persea borbonia).

Nectar plants – Azalea, Dogbane, Japanese Honeysuckle, Jewelweed, Lantana, Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, Sunflower, Sweet Pepperbush, Thistles.

4 thoughts on “SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY”

  1. Fantastic photo.
    I have several of those Yesterdays too. They do multiply from the seeds they drop.
    Love the Butterfly.

    1. Hi Meta! That’s interesting about the Yesterday. We have one and it has never multiplied BUT I have whacked on it regularly to keep it at four feet because it’s under one of the cypress trees. Maybe the seeds never get a chance. 🙂 Do you have a powder puff bush? I first saw them in your neck of the woods and had to have one. Mine freezes to the ground almost every winter but comes back. It takes spring/summer/fall for it to get back to 3 feet but it blooms profusely and is quite showy.

  2. No, I don’t have a Powder Puff bush. I have seen them get pretty tall and as you said they are very showy.
    I currently have a Vytex that is in bloom. The purple flowers are just beautiful and this morning I saw a hummingbird in it. The bees also love it and so do the Butterflies. As my son puts it: It is a multipurpose tree. I saw two of them on Sunday and they get huge, so I will have to cut them back too to keep them in bounds.

    1. Meta – I did an image search on that Vitex. Oh my oh my! That was beautiful! Kinda like a butterfly bush which, I discovered, you can grow from seed because I found it in seed catalogs. Have to giggle at “multipurpose tree.”

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