The spicebush swallowtail butterfly is a fascinating species found in the eastern half of the United States. Known for its stunning blue-green coloring, this butterfly is often seen fluttering around spicebush plants. In this guide, we will explore the life cycle of the spicebush swallowtail, with a particular focus on its eggs.

Spicebush swallowtail eggs are an essential part of the butterfly’s journey. These eggs, typically laid on the leaves of spicebush plants, mark the beginning of a remarkable transformation. By understanding more about these eggs and how to care for them, you can play a role in ensuring the survival and success of this beautiful species.

So, whether you are a nature enthusiast or simply curious about the wonders of the natural world, join us as we delve into the intricacies of spicebush swallowtail eggs and discover the magic they hold.

Key Takeaways:

  • Spicebush swallowtail butterflies are found in the eastern half of the United States.
  • Their eggs are typically laid on spicebush plants, marking the beginning of their life cycle.
  • Understanding and caring for these eggs is crucial for the survival of the species.
  • Join us as we explore the journey of spicebush swallowtail eggs and learn how to contribute to their preservation.
  • Appreciating the magic of nature can be both rewarding and educational.

Understanding the Life Cycle of the Spicebush Swallowtail

The spicebush swallowtail butterfly undergoes a fascinating metamorphosis through four distinct stages in its life cycle. Each stage contributes to the transformation of this beautiful creature.

Stage 1: The Egg

The life cycle begins with the egg of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. The female butterfly carefully selects a suitable host plant, typically a spicebush, where she lays her eggs. These eggs are often small and green, camouflaging perfectly with the leaves.

Stage 2: The Caterpillar

After about a week, the eggs hatch, revealing tiny spicebush swallowtail caterpillars. The caterpillars undergo several molts or instars as they grow, shedding their skin each time to accommodate their increasing size. It’s during this stage that they voraciously feed on the leaves of the host plant, gaining the nutrients necessary for their development.

Stage 3: The Chrysalis

When the caterpillar reaches its final instar, it forms a chrysalis, suspending itself from a branch or other surfaces. This transitional phase allows the caterpillar to undergo metamorphosis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s body liquefies, and its cells rearrange to form the structures of a butterfly.

Stage 4: The Butterfly

After approximately two weeks, the transformation is complete, and the spicebush swallowtail emerges as a breathtaking butterfly. Initially, its wings are wet and crinkled, preventing it from flying. However, over a few hours, the butterfly pumps fluid into its wings, causing them to expand and become capable of flight. The new butterfly now needs to wait for its wings to dry completely before it can embark on its first flight.

“The life cycle of the spicebush swallowtail is a remarkable example of nature’s wonders. From an inconspicuous egg to a stunning butterfly, every phase brings forth awe-inspiring transformations.”

Finding and Collecting Spicebush Swallowtail Eggs and Caterpillars

butterfly eggs

Spicebush swallowtail eggs are commonly found on the leaves of spicebush plants, but they can also be discovered on tulip trees, sassafras, camphor trees, redbay, and swampbay. To locate these delicate butterfly eggs, it is best to carefully inspect the leaves of these host plants.

“The beauty of finding spicebush swallowtail eggs is like stumbling upon hidden treasures in nature.”

If you’re venturing into the wild to collect these eggs, be aware that they face more risks from predators. To increase their chances of survival, many enthusiasts choose to collect the eggs and raise the caterpillars indoors.

Benefits of Collecting and Rearing Spicebush Swallowtail Eggs Indoors

Collecting spicebush swallowtail eggs and raising the caterpillars in a controlled environment offers several advantages:

  • Increased survival rates: By protecting the eggs and caterpillars from predators, you can ensure their safety and increase their chances of successfully completing their life cycle.
  • Observational learning: Rearing caterpillars indoors allows you to closely observe the different stages of their development and witness the awe-inspiring transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.
  • Education for children: Involving children in the process of raising spicebush swallowtails can be an educational and engaging activity that helps foster an appreciation for nature and conservation.

However, it is essential to remember that while collecting eggs can be a rewarding experience, it is crucial to respect the natural environment and not deplete the wild population.

Comparison of Wild vs. Indoor Rearing

FactorsWild RearingIndoor Rearing
Predator risksHighLow
Observational learning opportunitiesLimitedExtensive
Control over environmentMinimalHigh

By collecting and rearing spicebush swallowtail eggs indoors, you can provide a safer and more controlled environment for the eggs and caterpillars, ensuring their growth and development is not hindered by natural hazards.

Creating a Suitable Habitat for Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillars

To successfully raise spicebush swallowtail caterpillars, it is important to create a suitable habitat that mimics their natural environment. By providing the right conditions, you can ensure their health and well-being throughout their growth stages.

Tupperware Containers for Small Caterpillars

When the caterpillars are small and delicate, it is recommended to use tupperware containers as their initial habitat. These containers offer a controlled environment and protect the caterpillars from predators. Ensure there are small holes in the lid for proper ventilation.

Transitioning to a Butterfly Enclosure

As the caterpillars grow, they will require more space to move and pupate. Transition them to a larger butterfly enclosure, such as a mesh butterfly cage or a wooden box with screened sides. This will allow them to continue their natural behaviors while providing protection from predators.

Spicebush Leaves as Essential Food

One of the key elements in creating a suitable habitat is to include fresh spicebush leaves, as they are the primary food source for spicebush swallowtail caterpillars. Ensure a steady supply of fresh leaves by regularly replenishing them to meet the caterpillar’s voracious appetite. Other suitable host plants, such as sassafras or tulip trees, can also be provided as additional food options.

Regular Cleaning for a Clean and Safe Habitat

To maintain a clean and safe environment for the caterpillars, regular cleaning of the habitat is necessary. Remove any caterpillar waste, old leaves, or moldy food to prevent the spread of diseases. Use mild, eco-friendly cleaning agents to sanitize the enclosure without harming the caterpillars.

Key Elements for a Suitable HabitatDescription
Tupperware ContainersProvides a safe and controlled environment for small caterpillars.
Butterfly EnclosureOffers more space for larger caterpillars and protects them from predators.
Spicebush LeavesEssential food source for spicebush swallowtail caterpillars.
Regular CleaningEnsures a clean and safe habitat for caterpillars to thrive.

By creating a suitable habitat for spicebush swallowtail caterpillars, you can provide them with the ideal conditions to grow and develop into beautiful butterflies. Remember to observe their behavior closely and adjust the habitat as needed to ensure their success.

Feeding Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillars

spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars have specific dietary needs to thrive and grow into healthy butterflies. They primarily feed on the leaves of their host plants, which include spicebush, sassafras, and tulip trees. These plants provide the necessary nutrients for the caterpillars to develop and prepare for their transformation into beautiful butterflies.

To ensure the caterpillars receive optimal nutrition, fresh leaves should be provided daily. It is important to rinse the leaves before feeding to remove any excess moisture that could cause mold or bacterial growth. This helps maintain a clean and healthy environment for the caterpillars.

As the caterpillars grow, their appetite increases. It is essential to have an ample supply of leaves to meet their growing needs. Having enough host plants in your garden can help sustain a population of caterpillars and ensure their food supply is readily available.

If the host plants are not sufficient to meet the caterpillars’ appetite, additional leaves can be sourced from local garden centers or nurseries. Make sure to choose leaves from pesticide-free plants to avoid introducing any harmful chemicals to the caterpillars’ diet.

Remember, providing a diverse range of host plants and ensuring a steady supply of fresh leaves is crucial to supporting spicebush swallowtail caterpillars’ growth and development.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar Diet Table

Host PlantDescription
SpicebushA common host plant for spicebush swallowtail caterpillars. Its aromatic leaves provide essential nutrients.
SassafrasAnother favored host plant with leaves that caterpillars find nourishing.
Tulip TreesCaterpillars will also feed on the leaves of tulip trees, which can be a suitable alternative host plant.

The Pupation and Eclosion Process of Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

After reaching the fifth instar, the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar begins its transformation into a butterfly. It undergoes pupation, forming a chrysalis where the metamorphosis takes place. This stage is crucial for the development of the butterfly.

During the pupation period, which lasts approximately 10-20 days, the caterpillar undergoes significant changes within the chrysalis. It is a time of growth and transformation as the caterpillar’s body reorganizes into the intricate structure of a butterfly.

“The pupation stage is a remarkable process of nature’s transformation, where an earthbound caterpillar becomes a magnificent butterfly.”

As the pupa stage nears its end, the butterfly is ready to emerge. This process, known as eclosion, is a fascinating sight to observe. The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, pumped with new life and vigor.

The Eclosion Process

When the butterfly first emerges from the chrysalis, its wings are soft, wet, and wrinkled. It takes a few hours for the wings to dry and expand fully, allowing for flight. During this time, the butterfly pumps fluid from its abdomen into its wings, expanding them to their full size.

It is important not to disturb the butterfly during this crucial period. Any disturbances or handling could result in deformities or damage to the delicate wings. Therefore, it is essential to give the butterfly enough space and time to complete the eclosion process undisturbed.

Pupation10-20 days
EclosionA few hours for wing drying

Once the butterfly’s wings have dried and expanded, it can be released into its natural habitat. Watching a spicebush swallowtail butterfly take its first flight is a rewarding experience and a beautiful moment to witness.

To summarize, the pupation and eclosion processes mark the final stages of the spicebush swallowtail’s transformation from a caterpillar into a majestic butterfly. Being patient and allowing the butterfly to complete its eclosion undisturbed ensures its successful transition into the natural world.


Rearing spicebush swallowtails from eggs to butterflies can be a rewarding and educational experience. By understanding their life cycle, providing a suitable habitat, and feeding them the right food, you can successfully raise these beautiful butterflies at home.

Creating a butterfly-friendly garden with suitable host plants and nectar sources can also help attract spicebush swallowtails and other butterfly species to your yard. By incorporating plants like spicebush, sassafras, and tulip trees, you can create a natural haven for these delicate creatures.

Remember to avoid using pesticides or insecticides that could harm the caterpillars and butterflies. Embracing organic gardening practices will ensure the health and well-being of the spicebush swallowtails and contribute to the overall biodiversity of your garden.


Where can I find spicebush swallowtail eggs?

Spicebush swallowtail eggs can be found on the leaves of spicebush plants, as well as on tulip trees, sassafras, camphor trees, redbay, and swampbay. They are usually laid in small clusters.

Can I raise spicebush swallowtail caterpillars at home?

Yes, you can raise spicebush swallowtail caterpillars at home. By collecting the eggs and providing a suitable habitat with fresh host plant leaves, you can successfully raise them indoors and increase their chances of survival.

What do spicebush swallowtail caterpillars eat?

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars primarily feed on the leaves of their host plants, such as spicebush, sassafras, and tulip trees. The leaves should be provided fresh and rinsed before feeding.

How long does it take for a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar to become a butterfly?

After reaching the fifth instar, a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar will pupate and form a chrysalis. It will remain in the chrysalis for about 10-20 days before emerging as a butterfly.

Can I release the spicebush swallowtail butterfly as soon as it emerges?

No, the spicebush swallowtail butterfly needs some time for its wings to dry and expand before it can fly. It is important not to disturb the butterfly during this process, which usually takes a few hours.

Are there any tips for attracting spicebush swallowtails to my garden?

To attract spicebush swallowtails to your garden, you can create a butterfly-friendly environment by planting suitable host plants like spicebush, sassafras, and tulip trees. Providing nectar sources and avoiding the use of pesticides or insecticides can also help preserve butterfly habitat.

Last Update: December 29, 2023