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Pipevine Swallowtail
Battus philenor (Linnaeus, 1771)

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Diagnosis: A medium-sized swallowtail (wingspan: 58 to 83 mm), the Pipevine Swallowtail serves as a model for several other butterfly species to mimic. It is black with an overall metallic blue-green sheen on the upper side of the hindwing and the outer margin of the forewing. The hindwing underside has a row of bright round orange spots surrounded by iridescent blue.

Subspecies: Only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: Although widespread and common in the U.S. and Central America, the Pipevine Swallowtail's Canadian records are relatively few, and most are from southern Ontario. Exceptions include a stray discovered in 1942 at Killarney, Manitoba, and an out-o-frange record from Val Marie, Saskatchewan. One Ontario record is of particular interest, because it was so far north of its usual range; this was an almost dead specimen that washed ashore on Caribou Island in the middle of Lake Superior. Historically, incursions of the Pipevine Swallowtail into Canada were more frequent and in larger numbers than they have been in recent years.

Similar Species: There are four species in Canada that mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail: the female of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), the female black form (rare in Canada) of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (P. glaucus), the Spicebush Swallowtail (P. troilus), and the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax). The closest resemblance is with the Spicebush Swallowtail, which has a marginal row of oval green spots on the hindwings and a double row of orange spots on the hindwing underside. Females of polyxenes and glaucus have no metallic green sheen, and L. a. astyanax has no tails. [compare images]

Early Stages: The mature larva is black, with fleshy black or red tubercles in rows down the body, the two longest behind the head. The pupa is very angular with horns. The recorded foodplant in Canada is Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla). This plant has powerful toxic chemicals that are picked up by the larvae and are also present in the adults. The plant is sometimes used as an ornamental around homes in southwestern Ontario.

Abundance: This is a rare breeding immigrant in Canada.

Flight Season: The first generation of adults appears in late May but is very rare in Canada. Most records in Canada are from the second and third generations, which have been recorded between mid-June and early October.

Habits: As it visits flowers in backyards and open fields, the adult constantly flutters its wings in a very rapid and deliberate manner.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.

The Toronto Entomologists' Association thanks Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for providing the content and computer code for this web page.