Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches (8.9-11.4 cm). The upper surface of the forewing is mostly black with ivory spots along the margin. The upper surface of the hindwing has orange spots and a sheen of blue (female) or bluish-green (male) scales. The underside of the hindwing has pale green spots.

Egg:  Eggs are cream-colored globes and are laid singly on young leaves.

Caterpillar: Young caterpillars resemble bird droppings: chocolate brown with a white saddle mark. They also fold the edge of a host plant leaf over to form a flap that provides shelter.  Older caterpillars are bright green with two large black and yellow eyespots on the thorax behind the true head.  Another pair of spots occurs behind these but lacks the “eye.”  A double row of small blue circles extends down each side of the back. They form a shelter by spinning a silken mat on the center of a host plant leaf.  As the silk dries, it shrinks, causing the leaf to curl, surrounding the caterpillar. Immediately before pupating, the green caterpillar turns a startling, bright banana yellow..

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is either mottled brown or green, depending on the time of year and the structure to which it is attached. Brown chrysalides usually occur in the fall and overwinter. This is the overwintering stage.

Spicebush Swallowtails add a splash of green to Alabama's swallowtail color palate.  Once known as Green-Clouded Swallowtails, males of the species were aptly named.  Expanses of blue-green scales drift across their black hindwings, and green chevrons outline lower wing edges.  Females also sport green chevrons, but their hindwing clouds are decidedly blue, making them excellent mimics of their poisonous relative, the Pipevine Swallowtail. They even flutter their wings when nectaring, also reminiscent of Pipevine Swallowtails. Although Spicebush Swallowtails butterflies look a lot like Pipevine Swallowtails, they are actually most closely related to Tiger and Palamedes Swallowtails.  This becomes obvious when comparing their larvae: the family resemblance is remarkable.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Conecuh, Covington, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Geneva, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Winston

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
7 5 11 85 76 41 90 125 47 68 38 60 38 18 14 28 7 104 60 89 68 36 54 90 31 7 9 3 1 1

Habitat

Because of the diversity of their host plant habitats, Spicebush Swallowtails occur in moist woodlands as well as early succession field edges. 

Host and Nectar Plants

Trees and shrubs in the Laurel family (Lauraceae) are reported.

Host plants verified in Alabama are Smooth Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum).

Spicebush Swallowtails have a long proboscis relative to their size and are able to acess long-tubed flowers llike native azaleas for nectar in addition to other shorter-tubed flowers like thistles.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Adding Spicebush and/or Sassafras to your landscape will provide nurseries for Spicebush Swallowtails.  Both are garden-worthy plants with multi-season interest.  Although not typically available in the conventional nursery trade, they are often sold at native plant sales and specialty nurseries.

Spicebush Swallowtails are avid nectarers and flowers in the landscape will draw them, particularly if host plants are nearby.  They are especially attracted to native wildflowers such as milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), Joe Pye Weeds (Eutrochium spp.), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), blazing stars (Liatris spp.), and phloxes (Phlox spp.).  Flowering trees and shrubs such as Chickasaw and American Plum (Prunus angustifolia and P. americana), Coastal Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), Buttonbush (Cepholanthus occidentalus), and native azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are also important nectar sources.