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Spicebush Swallowtail

Papilio troilus troilus Linnaeus, 1758

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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)

STATUS: Resident; uncommon to common.

DISTRIBUTION/RANGE: Statewide (see map).

HABITAT: The spicebush swallowtail inhabits deciduous forests and adjacent open habitats such as old fields, woodland roads, and brushy areas. Adults are common in flower gardens and clover fields.

HOSTPLANT(S): Sassafras and spicebush are the principal hosts in Ohio. These plants are the primary hostplants throughout this butterfly's range (Opler and Krizek, 1984).

ADULT ENERGY RESOURCES: Red clover, winter cress, common milkweed, swamp milkweed, butterfly-weed, Joe-Pye weed, thistle, swamp thistle, honeysuckle, teasel, monarda, dame's rocket, brambles, lilac, weigela, and common blue phlox. Adults also take moisture from damp soil, mud, and urine deposits. Large gatherings of adults, especially males, at mud puddles are a common sight along woodland roads and stream mudflats, particularly in the spring.

FLIGHT PERIOD: Two broods in typical years, with peaks in May and August (see graph). Extreme dates range from 1 April to 4 October.

SIMILAR SPECIES: Use of the plates will allow easy determination of this species. Dark females of the Tiger Swallowtail are superficially similar, but always have traces of dark bands on the ventral wing surfaces which are always absent in P. troilus.

GENERAL COMMENTS: This species is sometimes referred to as the green-clouded swallowtail, a reference to green scaling on the dorsal hindwings of the males (rarely, males have blue scaling on the dorsal hindwing). Although it occurs statewide, this species is especially abundant in the forests of southern Ohio, where adults are frequently encountered flying through the understory.

Both sexes of this swallowtail resemble the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), a species which is distasteful to predators. This mimicry may result in reduced predation of P. troilus because some predators may not be able to distinguish them from B. philenor and hence, are reluctant to eat them.

The flight of this species is fairly rapid and direct. When alarmed, the flight becomes extremely fast and very erratic. Both sexes visit flowers freely.

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