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Butterflies of Virginia -- Papilio polyxenes

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Virginia

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
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Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes Fabricius)

Wing span: 3 1/4 - 4 1/4 inches (8 - 11 cm).

Identification: Upper surface of wings mostly black; on inner edge of hindwing is a black spot centered in larger orange spot. Male has yellow band near edge of wings; female has row of yellow spots. Female hindwing with iridescent blue band. In the Southwest, yellow forms predominate in the subspecies P. coloro.

Life history: Males perch and patrol for receptive females. Female lays eggs singly on leaves and flowers of the host, which are then eaten by hatching larvae. Hibernates as a chrysalis.

Flight: One-2 flights from April-October in northern regions of range; 3 flights in southern regions.

Caterpillar hosts: Leaves of plants in the parsley family (Apiaceae) including Queen Anne's Lace, carrot, celery and dill. Sometimes plants in the citrus family (Rutaceae) are preferred.

Adult food: Nectar from flowers including red clover, milkweed, and thistles.

Habitat: A variety of open areas including fields, suburbs, marshes, deserts, and roadsides.

Range: Most of the eastern U.S., north into Quebec, west into s. Saskatchewan, Colorado and se. California; south to n. South America. Subspecies coloro in desert Southwest.

Conservation: Not usually of concern.

Management needs: Maintain open fields in East.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

References:

Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains.
     Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates.

Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies.
     Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48
     color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press,
     Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Glassberg,  J.  1993.  Butterflies Through Binoculars: A Field Guide to 
     Butterflies in the Boston-New York-Washington Region.  Oxford Univ. Press, 
     New York, N.Y.  160 pp.    

Clark, A.H. and Clark, L.F. 1951.  The Butterflies of Virginia.  Smithsonian
     Miscellaneous collection No. 116:1-239.

Layberry, R.A., Hall, P.W. & Lafontaine, D.J., 1998.  The Butterflies of 
     Canada.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.  280 pp. 
     
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.     

Woodbury, E.N.  1994.  Butterflies of Delmarva.  Delaware Nature Society, Inc., 
     Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, MD.  138 pp.  [NOTE: this book only 
     treats True Butterflies (Papilionoidea).  It does not treat Skippers 
     (Hesperioidea).]
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
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