Pipevine Swallowtail

Battus philenor

The Pipevine Swallowtail is an uncommon butterfly in Wisconsin. It feeds solely on Pipevines (Aristolochia sp.), none of which are native to Wisconsin. Records of this species in Wisconsin are mainly associated with plantings of Dutchmans Pipevine.

Two colonies of this species were found in 2001: one in Madison and the other in Milwaukee (Wisconsin Entomological Society newsletter, March 2002). On June 7, 2007, two Pipevine Swallowtails were seen in Madison laying eggs on Pipevine (Aristolochia tomentosa), and on June 8 one was observed in Necedah NWR. Three other reports were received in July 2007 from Madison, and in late July, caterpillars were observed feeding on Aristolochia macrophylla in Plover, WI. This plant had been established at this site for over thirty years without previously noticeable caterpillar damage to the leaves.

Weekly sightings for Pipevine Swallowtail

Identifying characteristics

Above: black, with a strong blue-green iridescence, more pronounced in the male, and a row of white, submarginal spots on both wings. Below: very distinct submarginal row of orange spots, ringed with black, on an iridescent blue-green background.

Similar species

The species would most likely be confused with the Pipevine Swallowtail are the Spicebush Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, the female, black-form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, or the Red-spotted Purple, all of which are thought to mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail. The Spicebush and the Black Swallowtail have distinct double rows of orange spots below, while the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail has only a single marginal row and little iridescence. The Red-spotted Purple might also be confused with this species but has no tails and is considerably smaller.

Habitat

Open areas near woodlands where the larval hostplants grow.

Flight

Two generations; late May/June and then in July with adults flying through August.

Abundance

Rare. A stray that most likely is associated with its larval host plants, Pipevines. This species overwinters as a chrysalis, and it is likely that in most years cannot survive the winters in Wisconsin. In Ebner’s Butterflies of Wisconsin, he notes that there was a colony near Oostburg that “was known to flourish for many years.” Evidently this butterfly can survive some Wisconsin winters.

In the Summer 2001 issue of American Butterflies, an article called “The Pipe-dream Project” suggests that planting pipevines could help in increasing the distribution and abundance of this species, in a similar manner in which Bluebird houses have aided that species. Since the host plants do not grow here naturally, plantings of acceptable cultivated varieties of pipevines might be useful.

Late Pipevine Swallowtail Sightings

Date County Reported by
Sep 18, 2007 Dane Ann Thering
Sep 19, 2007 Dane joan braune
Oct 2, 2017 Milwaukee Christine Stanke
Oct 16, 2012 Dane Ann Thering
Oct 19, 2016 Waukesha Jim Ebner

Locations

Map showing sighting locations for Pipevine Swallowtail
Map key
Pipevine SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI. September 3, 2007.

Pipevine SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI. September 3, 2007.

Pipevine SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Caterpillar on aristolochia macrophylla

Back yard in Plover, Portage Co,. WI. July 26, 2007.

Pipevine SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Chrysalis from the side

Pipevine SwallowtailClick to enlarge

Chrysalis from below