Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

(Papilio troilus)

Spicebush swallowtail:

The Spicebush Swallowtail is found throughout the mid-western and eastern United States.

They are large butterflies with a wingspan of 3.5 to 5 inches.

Sometimes called green clouded swallowtails because of the green coloring on the males' hindwings. The hindwings of females are more blue than green.

Adult swallowtails will drink the nectar from many types of flowers, but some of their favorites are butterfly bush, purple coneflower, butterfly weed and common milkweed, lantana, zinnias, honeysuckle, and thistle.

They are also attracted to standing water and shallow mud puddles.

As their name suggests, this swallowtail caterpillars feed on the spicebush plant (Lindera Benzoin).

The larvae also feeds on sassafras, camphor tree, and redbay.

The larvae is quite unusual in appearance with its large eye spots.

These eye spots help to protect the caterpillar from predators.

Because the eye spots are so large, most butterfly predators assume that the eyes belong to a much larger animal than a caterpillar and so they generally leave it alone.

The caterpillar also protects itself by creating a shelter within the leaves of its host plant.

Its shelter is a rolled up leaf that the caterpillar hides in when it isn't eating. The caterpillar creates a silk strand that it uses to roll up the leaf.

The larvae goes through several stages (called instars), and shortly before it goes into the pupal stage, the larvae turns orange or yellow.

The chrysalis is either green or brown. If the chrysalis forms during the fall it overwinters in the pupal stage and emerges as an adult butterfly in the spring.

The adult butterfly enjoys some protection from predators. Because of their similar appearance to the nasty tasting Pipevine swallowtail.

Spicebush swallowtails are not often eaten by predators.

Habitat:

Woodlands, fields, gardens and parks provide habitat for this butterfly.

Habits:

A low flier, this butterfly can often be seen on a somewhat rapid and direct flight pattern.

Males patrol woodland and roadside areas looking for females.

Host plants and larvae:

Larvae feed on Spicebush and Sassafras. The larvae is similar to those of the Tiger swallowtail, except that they have two pairs of eyespots on the front part of the thorax.

Nectar plants:

Honeysuckle, lantana, azalea, butterfly bush, zinnia, milkweed and others.

Be sure to offer fresh water and protection in your gardens.

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