Pipevine and Spicebush Swallowtail

The Pipevine Swallowtail has shimmery, iridescent blue scales, which glisten in the sunlight. This is one of our most beautiful butterfly species. I have found Pipevine Swallowtails at several locations around the area. Cox Arboretum and Germantown MetroPark are two of the best places to see them. Pipevine Swallowtails fly mainly from late April through September (although I have seen stragglers as late as November!)

Pipevine Swallowtails appear to be constantly in motion, rapidly fluttering their wings even while nectaring. They can be a challenge to photograph. The individual at left was relatively cooperative because he was basking in the sun on a cool autumn day, just after the weather had turned cold. Cooler weather often makes butterflies sluggish and easier to photograph. 

Spicebush Swallowtails are distinctive for their large white (or pale greenish-blue) spots. Spicebush Swallowtails are common and widespread in our area. They typically fly from May through September.

Another Spicebush Swallowtail. You can see a hint of the greenish-blue color in this individual. One of the older common names for the Spicebush Swallowtail was the "Green Cloud" butterfly. 

This is a puddle club of Spicebush Swallowtails at the Cox Arboretum butterfly house (captive butterflies). Male butterflies often form "puddle clubs" where they imbibe minerals from wet soil. The minerals are passed on to the females during mating. 

A Spicebush Swallowtail nectaring at a common teasel flower, with Queen Anne's Lace in the lower left corner. A beautiful butterfly can make even the most ordinary weeds look lovely! 

This is the underside of a Pipevine Swallowtail. The single row of reddish-orange spots is a good field mark. (Two similar species, the Spicebush Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail, have two rows of reddish-orange spots instead of one.) 

This is a female Pipevine Swallowtail. Females are usually much darker than the males, and they often show little or no blue color. Females look almost solid black, apart from the white spots.