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Black Swallowtail

Papilio polyxenes asterius Stoll, 1782

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Adult male photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult female photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult ventral photo (Click to enlarge)
Distribution Map
Ohio county distribution
Records by Month
Flight period (Temporal distribution)

DISTRIBUTION/RANGE: Statewide (see map). This species has been recorded from all 88 counties.

HABITAT: Virtually any open habitat. This species can be found in old fields, pastures, along roadsides, in meadows, and flower gardens.

HOSTPLANT(S): This species uses virtually any cultivated or wild member of the carrot family, Apiaceae. In Ohio, it has been found and reared on wild and cultivated carrot, parsley, cultivated celery, and wild parsnip. Scriber and Finke (1978) considered wild and cultivated carrot to be the primary host in west-central Ohio. It has also been reported from dill, fennel (Kirtland, 1854a), poison-hemlock (Kirtland, 1854a), bulb-bearingwater-hemlock (Scriber and Finke, 1978), angelica (Scriber and Finke, 1978), honewort (Scriber and Finke, 1978), and cultivated anise (Studebaker and Studebaker, 1967). This butterfly can be a pest in gardens and truck fanns which specialize in crops such as carrots, celery, dill, and parsley. The larva is sometimes referred to as the "parsley worm". Webster (1 900b) reported larvae on the composite. Larvae of closely related species of Papilio have been reported to eat Asteraceae (Scott, 1986), so this may represent a valid record.

ADULT ENERGY RESOURCES: Alfalfa, red clover, common milkweed, swamp milkweed, thistle, purple coneflower, winter cress, teasel, and ironweed. Adults also gather at damp soil and mud puddles to imbibe moisture.

FLIGHT PERIOD: Two broods, with an occasional partial third brood, with major peaks in May, July, and August (see graph). Extreme dates range from 4 April to 24 October.

SIMILAR SPECIES: None. The wing pattern will differentiate this butterfly from all other Ohio swallowtails. However, collectors should watch for Papilio joanae, a closely related and very similar species not yet reported for Ohio.

GENERAL COMMENTS: This is one of the species that has undoubtedly benefited from human disturbance of the original countryside. The most frequently used hostplants, wild and domestic carrots, are naturalized plants that owe their presence in Ohio to human intervention. Before the forests were cleared, this species was probably restricted to prairies, wetlands, and other openings in the forest.

The flight of this species is rapid, erratic, and close to the ground. It tends to be more wary than our other swallowtails and can be difficult to capture. Males are territorial (Lederhouse, 1982) and actively defend small territories in open fields, especially on hilltops. The males often perch on the tallest herbaceous vegetation present within their territories and fly out to investigate other passing butterflies. Both sexes are avid flower visitors, and are easily observed while they are feeding.


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