Species Battus philenor - Pipevine Swallowtail - Hodges#4157
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Papilionidae (Swallowtails, Parnassians)
Tribe Troidini (Birdwings, Cattlehearts and Aristolochia Swallowtails)
Species philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail - Hodges#4157)
Other Common Names
Blue Swallowtail (Comstock, How to Know the Butterflies, 1904; Weed, Butterflies Worth Knowing, 1922)
The Philenor (Jaeger, Life of North American Insects, 1859)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
, 1771). Synonyms, etc.:
Papilio philenor Linnaeus, 1771 (original combination)
Explanation of Names
Specific epithet philenor (Greek φιληνωρ) literally means "fond of a man/men" or "loving one's husband". Linnaeus doesn't explain what this has to do with butterflies.
Butterflies of America lists 5 subspecies, of which 2 are native to our area:
philenor (Linnaeus, 1771)
hirsuta (Skinner, 1908)
For more details on the subspecies of the Pipevine Swallowtail, refer to the following:
Iridescent blue/black pattern on upper surface is distinctive when fresh. Can be confused with other members of its mimicry complex--see comments below. The Pipevine flutters its wings incessantly while nectaring--I suspect this is part of its mechanisms for advertising distastefulness. (This is original speculation by the author--PC.) Some others in its complex, notably the Black Swallowtail, seem to do this too.
Male has very iridescent upper surfaces of hindwings. Female has less striking iridescence. Underside has a single median row of orange spots which do not touch each other.
Caterpillar is quite distinctive, may be a mimic of the tropical onychophorans, called velvet worms. Dark brownish black (occasionally smoky red) with soft fleshy tentacle-like projections, usually red-orange dorsal warts over abdomen. Tentacles on T1 twice as long as those on following segments.
Chrysalis brown or green, similar to Battus polydamas
- see David Ferguson's comments on this image for a description of the differences:
Southern United States, to southern Mexico.
In eastern US, old fields, etc. near woodlands with hostplant.
Mid-summer in eastern United States. Does not fly as late into fall as other swallowtails. Caterpillars present from June into fall in temperate areas.
Larvae feed on Aristolochia
species. These include "Pipevine" or "Dutchman's Pipe", Aristolochia
species (tomentosa, durior, reticulata, californica
), as well as Virginia Snakeroot, Aristolochia serpentaria.
Larvae presumably take up toxic secondary compounds (including Aristolochic acid
) from their hostplant. Both larvae and adults are believed toxic to vertebrate predators, and both have aposematic
Adults nectar on a variety of flowers, including asteraceae. Males take fluids from damp sand.
Two or three flights per year in North Carolina. Flies all year in tropical Mexico. Overwinters as chrysalis in temperate areas. In North Carolina, P. Coin has noticed two colors of chrysalises produced in mid-summer. One was green, and an adult emerged from these in about two weeks. Several others were dark brown. One overwintered, (chrysalis formed May 30, 2004) emerging on May 10, 2005, almost one year later.
The beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor,
is the model of a Batesian mimicry
complex. The members of this complex present a confusing array of blue-and-black butterflies in the summer months in the eastern United States. These include the Spicebush Swallowtail
, Black Swallowtail
(female), Tiger Swallowtail
(dark phase, female), Red-spotted Purple
and Diana Fritillary
(female). Sample photos are below:
There is some indication that the Spicebush and Black Swallowtails are also distasteful, so the complex is partly Mullerian
as well (1)
. In the central and western US, Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon
, form bairdi
), Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra), and Ozark Swallowtail (Papilio joanae
) have dark blue/black forms, probably mimics of the Pipevine Swallowtail (2)
Mimics: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female, dark phase), Black Swallowtail (female), Spicebush Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, Diana Fritillary. See Black Swallowtail
for comparisons of the mimics.
Larva of Battus polydamas
is somewhat similar, but fleshy projections are orange, shorter on T1 and longer on the rest of the body than those of B. philenor
. Usually has muted diagonal striping.
Allen pp. 41-42, plate 1--adult, 31--larva (3)
Allen, pp. 28-29--photos of larva, adult (4)
Glassberg p. 43, plate 1 (5)
Jaeger, 1859. Life of North American Insects (6)
Schappert p. 182, pp. 184-188, detailed discussion of mimicry complex (1)
Scott, species #25, pp. 185-186, plates 7, 8--adult, figs. 34--wings in ultraviolet, 51--larva, 52--chrysalis (7)
Wagner, p. 77--photo of caterpillar, discussion of possible mimicry by caterpillar (8)
Wright, pp. 74-75, color illustrations of larva, adult, chrysalis (9)
Mantissa plantarum, 2nd ed., p.535
Linnaeus' original description of the species (in Latin)