Black Swallowtail Facts

The Black Swallowtail is a butterfly that is found in North America.

It is similar to other species of the same type of butterfly and it is hard to tell the difference between it and other species.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

What Does the Black Swallowtail Look Like?

The Black Swallowtail butterfly is black and has yellow markings on the outside of its front and back wings.  On the back of the male is two red dots on the back end of the butterfly.

The female is sometimes a greyish color with white markings on the outside of its front and back wings, but it has a blue dot area on the back end of the butterfly.

The wingspan of the Black Swallowtail is up to 8.4 centimeters long.


Black Swallowtail Butterfly

There are 7 different subspecies of the Black Swallowtail including the Americus, asterius, coloro, gerardi, kahli, sadalus and stabilis.

Where Does the Black Swallowtail Live?

Black Swallowtail

The Black Swallowtail is from South America, North America and all through Canada.

The habitat of the Black Swallow is tropical habitats that are in parks, fields, marshes or deserts.

Life Cycle

Black Swallowtail

The egg of the female Black Swallowtail is a pale-yellow color and the larvae or caterpillar are a bright or neon green color with black and yellow stripes.


Black Swallowtail

The Black Swallowtail has a protection where it will take in toxins from the plants and if a predator tries to eat it, it will taste bad.

The caterpillar also has an orange gland that is forked, and it can make it to look like a snakes tongue to scare off predators.

The female Black Swallowtail also has mimicry which is how the female will look like another animal with the colorings to scare away the predators.

What Does the Black Swallowtail Eat?

The Black Swallowtail caterpillar eats plants form the bishopweed, scaleseed, hemlock, parsley, dropwort and more.

The Black Swallowtail adult will drink nectar from flowering plants.

Behavior of the Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

The Black Swallowtail has to have the temperature at 24 degrees Celsius in order to be able to fly.  It will be able to regulate its own temperature by the way it positions its abdomen.

When the sun is out and it is cold, the Black Swallowtail will face its abdomen towards the sun and will perch there for a long time.

If the temperature is lower, the Black Swallowtail will lower its abdomen to the ground and flatten its wings.


Black Swallowtail

The male Black Swallowtail will protect its territory and use its territory to find a female.

The male will stay close to flowering plants that the female likes.

If a male gets too close, the male will chase it out of the territory.  The size does not matter but it maters if they are able to protect their territory.

The male will pick one female and the females like males that have the best territories.

Males will come out before females and they will be able to find the best territories and the best females to mate with.

Black Swallowtail Facts for Kids

  • The Black Swallowtail gets its name from being a P. polyxenes butterfly from the Greek goddess Polyxena, the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.
  • The caterpillar likes to eat parsley leaves and is called a parsley worm because of it.
  • The caterpillar’s pupae can be brown or green depending on the surroundings where it lives.
  • The caterpillar will change colors hours before it emerges from the chrysalis.
  • The Black Swallowtail will fly less when the temperature is higher.
  • The male Black Swallowtail is very aggressive.
  • Similar species of the Black Swallowtail include Old World Swallowtail, Indra Swallowtail and the Short-Tailed Swallowtail.

What Did You Learn?

  • What is the Black Swallowtail?
    The Black Swallowtail is a butterfly that is found in North America.
  • What is interesting about the name of the Black Swallowtail?
    The Black Swallowtails scientific name P. polyxenes is named after the Greek Goddess Polyxena.
  • What is interesting about the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail?
    The Black Swallowtail caterpillar is sometimes called the parsley worm because it likes to eat parsley.
  • Are the male Black Swallowtails aggressive?
    Yes.  The male Black Swallowtails are aggressive and will fight to protect their territory.
  • Is the Black Swallowtail poisonous?
    The Black Swallowtail is not poisonous but it eats from flowers with toxins and they are able to taste bad to their predators if eaten.
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