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Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio troilus)


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



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Image Credit: Kittie P. taken in MO
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Image Credit: Tim, taken on the Appalachian Trail in PA
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Michelle E., taken in IL
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Image Credit: Kittie P., taken in MO
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The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of North America's most popular butterflies and it benefits from mimicking a toxic doppleganger.



Updated: 09/23/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
This species of butterfly can be found in gardens and at the edges of forests. Its coloration resembles that of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, however, the Spicebush Swallowtail has two rows of orange spots on the bottom of the hindwings (seen when wings are closed) whereas the Pipevine has only one row of orange spots. Fortunately for the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly, the Pipevine Swallowtail is an unsavory meal for birds, arachnids, and other insects so its similarity in appearance offers it some protection from predators.

The Spicebush Swallowtail has an overall greenish tint to its wings. It also has the elongated 'tails' at the tips of the hindwings like all Swallowtails. Females have a band of blue along the base of the hindwings that is visible when the wings are open flat. Males have a band of greenish-white instead of blue.

It is most commonly seen in the warmer states of the southern U.S., but its range ventures as far north as southern Ontario. It is associated with the spicebush plant, a shrub with a spicy-lemony type of scent that is best appreciated by crushing a few leaves in your hand. Males are often seen drinking water from puddles formed by wet mud. Caterpillars feed on spicebush, sassafras, and bay plants. The green caterpillar has a humpback with a large black and yellow eyespot on its sides. It is a tidy little creature, wrapping a leaf around itself for a shelter, pushing it own feces out of its retreat in order to keep it clean.




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




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Papilionidae
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          Genus: Papilio
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            Species: troilus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Papilio troilus
Other Name(s): Green Clouded Swallowtail
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 89mm to 114mm (3.50" to 4.48")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; blue; orange; white; yellow; green
Descriptors: flying, eyespots
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 89mm and 114mm
Lo: 89mm
Md: 101.5mm
Hi: 114mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly 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 Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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