Butterfly: Wingspan: 2 3/4 to 3 inches (70-86 mm). Pipevine Swallowtails are large black butterflies with fairly short hindwing tails. The top surface is black with striking blue or blue-green iridescence on the hindwings. Females have less iridescence. A single row of light spots crosses the hindwing. Underwing surfaces have an arc of 7 bright orange spots that cross the metallic blue area. Spring individuals are usually smaller.
ID Tip: There is no trace of red, orange or yellow on top wing surfaces. These butterflies flutter constantly when nectaring.
Egg: Round, dark orange eggs are laid singly or in small clusters on stems or leaves of host plant.
Caterpillar: Usually dusky black in color but young larvae may be rusty red. Dark, fleshy tentacles extend from the body, with the longest located just behind the head. Rows of short orange tentacles also extend over the length of the body. Osmeteria are orange. Caterpillars eat in groups when young but tend to separate as they mature.
Chrysalis: Mottled green or brown, depending on season and surface texture. Highly sculpted and angled with curves and horns. It is the only camouflaged life cycle stage and is also the overwintering stage.
PIpevine Swallowtails are widespread in Alabama. These distasteful butterflies are the center of a mimicry ring that includes at least 6 palatable species. Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars obtain toxic chemicals (aristocholic acids) from their host plants; they retain these as adult butterflies. The chemicals are distasteful to birds, which learn to avoid the black and orange caterpillars as well as the large black-and-blue, orange-spotted butterflies. Dark female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, dark female Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails, female Spicebush Swallowtails, female Black Swallowtails, female Diana Fritillaries, and Red-spotted Purples have developed similar color patterns that give them some protection from predators.
Pipevine Swallowtails flutter constantly when nectaring--a characteristic that can help in identification. Males patrol for females, and may gather in groups to sip from wet sand or muddy roads.
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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Covington, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Wilcox, Winston
View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names
Usually in or near deciduous woodlands. Also near stream and river banks. Found in open, woodland edge habitats that may include gardens.
Pipevine Swallowtails use plants in the Birthwort family (Aristolochiacea) as their caterpillar hosts.
Pipevine/Wooly Dutchman’s Pipe (Isotrema tomentosa) and Virginia Snakeroot (Endodeca serpentaria) have been documented in Alabama. Female Pipevine Swallowtials deposit eggs on new growth and do not hesitate to use small Pipevine sprouts. Virginia Snakeroot plants are often only a few inches tall. Caterpillars may be required to search the woodland floor for additional food as they grow.
For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:
Plant Pipevine, also called Dutchman’s Pipe, to attract Pipevine Swallowtails. Pipevine is a deciduous vine with large, heat-shaped leaves and curious, pipe-shaped flowers. It requires support so provide a trellis, arbor, or fence. Pipevine spreads underground by sending out root runners. Typically the only maintenance required is cutting back or potting up the sprouts that occur from these runners. Share with your friends because Pipevine is seldom found in the conventional nursery trade. Acquire it at local native plant sales or specialty mail order nurseries.
Swallowtails are avid nectarers and 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) and native azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are also important nectar sources.