Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black swallowtail is common through much of the United States except the Rocky mountains and west coast. It can also be found in extreme southern Canada.

Like the Anise swallowtail, its favorite host plants are of the carrot family, making this butterfly a frequent visitor to many vegetable gardens.

Black Swallowtail

A butterfly that is usually on the wing from spring to fall, but may be seen a while longer in warmer climates.

To avoid predators, the female is similar in appearance and movement to the Pipe Vine Swallowtail.


This Swallowtail is mostly black with patches of yellow.

The male has a narrow yellow band on both wings.

The female has a series of small yellow spots.

From wing tip to wing tip this butterfly measures 2 and 1/2 inches to 3 and 1/2".


This Swallowtail butterfly has a more lilting flight than the Pipe vine, but it also flutters its wings when taking nectar from flowers and feeders.

During cool weather, members of the species can be found basking close to the ground with their wings spread.

This practice is common among many butterfly species and is known as dorsal basking.

Larvae and host plants:

Larvae feed on various members of the carrot family, including carrots, parsley, dill and celery. Young larvae are dark brown with white.

Be sue to plant some for the butterflies and protect your garden plants with netting.

Markings that resemble bird droppings.

Mature larvae are green with black bands that have yellow or orange spots.

Nectar plants:

Black swallowtail larvae

Butterfly weed, butterfly bush, phlox, thistle, clover and others.

Planting a butterfly garden or a bed of flowers and host plants will almost insure this haunting beauty to visit.

Don't forget to add a source of water.

Mud puddles are ideal hangouts for butterflies.

Not only do they get water, but they also feed on trace minerals that seep up from the surrounding ground.

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