Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
The Pipevine Swallowtail is a species of iridescent blue butterflies found in several parts of the Americas. They are mostly seen during the spring and the summer months in sunlit meadows and fields. Some species use the pipevine swallowtail as a template for mimicry.
- Family: Papilionidae
- Genus: Battus
- Common names: Blue swallowtail
- Scientific Name: Battus philenor
Description and Identification
The mature larva can be solid black with two rows of yellow dots or bright red and have sting- or spine-like growths all over the body. They live on plants species belonging to the genus Aristolochia. As a defensive adaptation, they draw aristolochic acid from the food plants they consume in order to protect themselves from predators by being poisonous when consumed by the latter. This stage lasts for 3 to 4 weeks.
The chrysalis is light brown with darker vein-like markings all over the body. By evolution, they have developed a look similar to dead leaves that help them camouflage easily from their enemies while staying attached to a silk thread hanging from the branch of their host plants. The cocoon stage lasts for around 10 to 20 days, depending on the weather conditions.
Sexual Dimorphism: Not prominently visible
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal surface of the hindwings display an iridescent blue or blue-green hue, which is more prominent in males than in females. There is also a row of white spots parallel to the border of the tailed hindwings. When the wings are closed, the ventral side of the hindwings shows a submarginal row of seven circular orange spots in an iridescent blue field highlighted with white.
Average wingspan: 7 to 13 cm
Flight pattern: Slow and erratic
Red or orange in color, with vertical stripes along the outside and laid in clusters
|Distribution||Ranges in the northern parts of both the Americas, as also, in Canada, and south to southern Mexico|
|Habitat||Mostly in open grasslands, woodlands, meadows, and backyard gardens|
|Lifespan of adults||6 to 14 days|
|Host plants||In Central America: Passionflower species Passiflora oerstedii and Passiflora menispermifolia Elsewhere: Various passion flower species|
|Adult diet||Only flower nectar especially from Cirsium (thistle), Phlox, and Vernonia species|
Did You Know?
- The butterfly has an affinity for pink and purple flowers.
- During mating or courtship, the males sometimes use sodium that they withdraw from mud as a nuptial gift.