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Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Pipevine Swallowtail



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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Justin B.
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Manzeal Khanal, taken in Uvalde, TX
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Image Credit: Manzeal Khanal, taken in Uvalde, TX
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Image Credit: Justin B.
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Image Credit: Tracy B. from San Antonio, TX
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Image Credit: Manzeal Khanal, taken in Uvalde, TX
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Image Credit: Eric B. from Denton County, TX
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Image Credit: Eric B. from Denton County, TX
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Image Credit: Eric B. from Denton County, TX
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The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly is a dark beauty with a range that covers most of the U.S. and Mexico.



Updated: 08/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly has similar coloring found on Spicebush Swallowtails, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and Red-spotted Purple Admirals. It has elongated extensions, or 'tails', at the tips of the hindwings, as do all members of the Swallowtail family. Black wings have iridescent blue on the underside, along with orange and white eyespots that follow the wing's curve. White dots cover the black head and form a row on each side of the abdomen.

Wine-red caterpillars have clusters of bright red hairs along the top and sides of the body. They feed on chemically noxious pipevine plants like snakeroot and Dutchman's pipe. These caterpillars are able to build up an internal store of the distasteful chemical that stays with them as they develop. This renders the adult butterfly unpleasant to eat, so birds, reptiles, and other predators learn to avoid eating caterpillars and butterflies. Other butterflies with similar coloring benefit from the Pipevine Swallowtail's bitter-tasting reputation.

Adults can be found in a variety of habitats including gardens, forests, canyons, and meadows. Two to four generations can be produced per year in warm climates. Males can be seen congregating at 'puddle parties' where they take in water and minerals that dissolved in the water. They are less active at puddles and pond edges, allowing for a better look at their colors.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Papilionidae
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          Genus: Battus
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            Species: philenor
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Battus philenor
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 70mm to 86mm (2.75" to 3.38")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; blue; white; orange; yellow; red
Descriptors: flying, spotted, bumpy, centipede
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 70mm (2.8in) and 86mm (3.4in)
Lo: 70mm
Md: 78mm
Hi: 86mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Pipevine Swallowtail may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Pipevine Swallowtail. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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