Pipevine and Spicebush Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtails have 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 from late April through early October, but they are most numerous in the summer months. 

Pipevine Swallowtails seem to be constantly in motion, fluttering their wings rapidly 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 affords good photographic opportunities. 

Spicebush Swallowtails are distinctive for their large white (or pale greenish-blue) spots. These spots are much larger than the white spots on a Pipevine Swallowtail (above). Spicebush Swallowtails are more common than Pipevine Swallowtails in our area. They typically fly from May through September.

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 nectars 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 a ventral view of a Pipevine Swallowtail. The single row of red spots is a good field mark. Both the Spicebush Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail have two rows of orangish-red spots instead of one.