Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

My beautiful wildlife garden is a bit behind this year, but I can always count on having a healthy population of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies.  The only host plants for this lovely creature are various species of Aristolochia.

Dutchman's Pipevine - Aristolochia macrophylla

Dutchman’s Pipevine – Aristolochia macrophylla

Pipevine flower

Pipevine flower

Dutchman’s Pipevine (A. macrophylla) is native to the Eastern United States and is a fast-growing perennial vine that looks wonderful covering a fence.

Pipevine Swallowtail laying her eggs

Pipevine Swallowtail laying her eggs

Pipevine butterfly eggs

Pipevine butterfly eggs

After planting my first pipevine plant I had to wait three years for the first momma butterfly to find my yard.  Every since then I’ve raised dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of pipevine swallowtails every year without fail.

new swallowtail babies

new swallowtail babies

The newly hatched baby caterpillars tend to eat together in groups for the first few days of their life.  The pipevine plants contain chemical compounds that give the caterpillars some protection against birds and other animal predators.

young pipevine caterpillars

young pipevine caterpillars

Mature pipevine swallowtail caterpillars can be black or red.  They eat for 10-15 days and will grow faster in hot weather.  And by the way, they feel exactly like gummy bears!

mature pipevine caterpillars

mature pipevine caterpillars

pipevine swallowtail

All swallowtail caterpillar species have an unusual defense mechanism.  When they feel threatened they extend a smelly gland called an osmeterium.

Red pipevine caterpillar showing its osmeterium

Red pipevine caterpillar showing its osmeterium

Black caterpillar extending its osmeterium

Black caterpillar extending its osmeterium

The next stage of development is the chrysalis.  The pipevine swallowtail chrysalis comes in two different colors . . . green and brownish-grey.

pipevine swallowtail caterpillar preparing to join its siblings in the chrysalis stage

pipevine swallowtail caterpillar preparing to join its siblings in the chrysalis stage

During the heat of summer the butterfly develops quickly inside its chrysalis and emerges ready to fly in 7-10 days.  If autumn is approaching soon, the butterfly remains in the chrysalis stage through the winter, finally emerging in the spring.

Love those metallic blue wings!

Love those metallic blue wings!

Pipevine swallowtail butterflies drink nectar from a large selection of flowers in your garden.  But if you don’t supply their host plant so they can lay eggs, you may never see them at all.

pipevine swallowtail

pipevine swallowtail

 

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Comments

  1. Maryjane says

    I am truly lucky to have a “Dutchman’s” Pipevine and enjoy the butterflies daily here in Southwest Florida…………..you do have to keep the vine trimmed or redirected because it is a rapid growing plant………………

  2. says

    I’m with Donna…I’m convinced. I’ve toyed with the idea of planting Dutchman’s pipevine and never got around to it but this post has convinced me I need to make it a priority. Thanks for sharing such amazing photos.
    Debbie recently posted..Wordless Wednesday ~ Foamy

  3. Debbie2 says

    Year two…I am counting down to next year when I hope to have enough critical mass on the several Dutchman’s pipe vines I’ve planted that the garden attracts females to lay eggs…these photos are great.

  4. says

    Thanks for the great photos and information, Judy. Glad you are inspiring others to plant pipevine. I have pipevine and like it a lot. I, too, find it consistently attracts the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. I’ve always had black caterpillars and didn’t know they could be red. And yes, those metallic blue wings are indeed beautiful.
    Betty Hall recently posted..Cecropia moth story continued

    • says

      Hi Betty :)
      I don’t know why we get the occasional red caterpillars, but we enjoy seeing the variety. I’ll have to do some research and see if there is a reason for the color difference.

  5. Renae says

    Thanks for the information! I was at a botanical garden yesterday and my four-year-old son found one of these pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. So unique! I admit I was a bit freaked out when the yellow osmeterium popped out! (not really a bug person but I can appreciate them) My son of course thought it was the coolest caterpillar ever. :)

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