Palamedes Swallowtail – Papilio palamedes

Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies Papilio palamedes are found in the southeastern United States and up to New York. Hosting on the same plants as Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies, they can often be found on the same trees. They are found in coastline states from Texas to New York. Host trees include Persea bays such as red bay, swamp bay, and silk bay. They also eat spicebush, sassafras, and a few other trees.

Palamedes Swallowtail Papilio Palamedes drinking nectar from Spider Flower Cleome

Palamedes Swallowtail
Drinking nectar from Spider Flower

They greatly resemble male Black Swallowtail butterflies. Yellow scales on the hindwings are blended into a solid line on the Palamedes Swallowtail and are separate spots on the Black Swallowtail.

Palamedes Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail compare

Left: Palamedes Swallowtail
Right: Black Swallowtail

Unlike most Swallowtail butterflies, they have a yellow line down their bodies. On the outside (bottom) of their hindwings, they each have a yellow line close to and parallel to their bodies.

Palamedes swallowtail Papilio yellow line on wing and body

Palamedes swallowtail
Yellow line on body and outside of hind wings

Eggs are identical to Spicebush Swallowtail eggs. In areas where these two species are found together, one cannot tell by either the egg or plant the identity of the species. Caterpillars resemble greatly but do differ in appearance. While Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars normally roll the leaf as a ‘nest’, Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillars aren’t as apt to roll a leaf.

Hatching as a brown and white caterpillar, they first resemble bird or lizard droppings.

Young brown and white Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

Young brown and white Palamedes Swallowtail

As they grow, they begin to turn green.

Palamedes Swallowtail brown and white caterpillar turning green

Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillar turning green

Later instar caterpillars are all green. Although they do have two sets of eye spots, one spot is very small and often overlooked. Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars have larger second eye spots.

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly green caterpillar

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly green caterpillar

Before pupating, some turn yellow as they walk about, deciding where to pupate.

Yellow Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillar, ready to pupate

Yellow Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillar
Looking for a spot to pupate

Attaching in a ) shaped, the caterpillar begins the process of pupation. The first part takes about a day and happens inside the caterpillar.

Palamedes Swallowtail, J'ing prepupa ready to pupate

Palamedes Swallowtail, preparing to pupate

After almost a day, the caterpillar pupates. If they pupate near brown leaves or on brown stems/trunks, they will be brown.

Brown Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly chrysalis

Brown Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly chrysalis

If they pupate near green leaves, they will be green.

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises green and brown

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises
Green and brown

Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies spend the winter as chrysalises. When spring arrives and host plants grow fresh leaves, the adult butterflies emerge, mate, and lay eggs.

Palamedes Swallowtail brown chrysalis

Palamedes Swallowtail brown chrysalis

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly drinking nectar from Stoke's Aster

Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly
Drinking nectar from Stoke’s Aster

Female adults have blue dots on their hindwings.

Female Palamedes Swallowtail blue dots

Female Palamedes Swallowtail blue dots

Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies drinking nectar from thistle and courting

Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies
Drinking nectar from thistle and courting

Palamedes Swallowtail have orange antennae

Palamedes Swallowtail have orange antennae

Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies drinking nectar from pentas blooms

Palamedes Swallowtail butterflies
Drinking nectar from pentas blooms

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