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Papilio polyxenes

Common Name: Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes
Papilio polyxenes

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Papilionidae
Genus: Papilio
Species: Papilio polyxenes

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Black swallowtails have a 3-4" wingspan. They are black with yellow spots in rows and have an orange and black dot on the inner edge of the hindwing.

Female swallowtails have blue on the hindwing and less yellow. (pictured) Males have a bolder yellow color.

The hindwings have “tails.”

Habitat & Range

These butterflies are found from Southern Canada down to South America in open habitat such as fields and meadows.


Black swallowtails feed on red clover, milweed, and thistles.

Life Cycle

Female black swallowtails will lay between 200 and 440 eggs in a season on plants in Apiaceae, the parsley family. Plants in the parsley family create a chemical called psoralins that repel insects that try to eat them. However, the black swallowtail larvae are resistant to the psoralins, and able to eat the plant. By eating the psoralin, the larvae taste bad to potential predators.

Featured image by Megan McCarty


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