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