Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly - Papilio troilus

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Spicebush Swallowtail Papilio troilus

Spicebush Swallowtail females boast blue on their hindwings while males boast aqua/green on their hindwings. Spicebush Swallowtails are found throughout the eastern half of the US. It was recently re-discovered in Maine.


Young caterpillars have a brown smudge on their rump. Palamedes Swallowtail young caterpillars rump is white. Palamedes caterpillars resemble Spicebush caterpillars. Both species eat red bay, swamp bay, silk bay, sassafras, and spicebush trees.


The eye spots on one of these caterpillars are simply skin markings on its thorax. These are not real eyes. Even with the knowlege that they are not eyes, it is hard to think of them as skin patterns, like stripes or dots. A caterpillar's real eyes are on either side of its true head. Each side of its head has six eyes. Click on the photo above right to see a larger image of a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar's real eyes.


Top left: when the caterpillar molts, or crawls out of its old tight skin, the eye spots are left behind and new eyespots are bright and fresh. Top middle: the head of the caterpillar is to the extreme right in the middle photo. Top right: caterpillars lay a mat of silk that contracts when it dries, curling a leaf into a tight roll. The caterpillar stays in the rolled leaf when it is not eating.


Above left: a Spicebush caterpillar bulldozes a Palamedes caterpillar off the leaf. When crowded, they push each other off leaves to the ground. The pupae resemble Palamedes pupae. Above right: the bottom two chrysalises are Spicebush, the top two are Palamedes. When they pupate on something green or light, they are green. When pupating on something brown or dark, they are dark.


Above left: female Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly has blue on her hindwings. She is drinking nectar from Abelia. Above middle: male Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly has aqua/green on his hindwings. Above right: this tattered female Spicebush flew in our garden for days.