The pipevine swallowtail is a stunning butterfly species known for its vibrant blue wings. As a defense mechanism, this butterfly is distasteful or toxic to many predators due to the aristolochic acids found in its caterpillar’s host plants.

In the mountains of Virginia, you can find the pipevine plant, which is a high-climbing vine with large heart-shaped leaves. Another native host plant for the pipevine swallowtail is Virginia snakeroot. These host plants contain aristolochic acids that protect the eggs, caterpillars, and adult butterflies, while their colorful appearance acts as a warning to potential predators. In Virginia, the pipevine swallowtail experiences two generations each year.

Key Takeaways:

  • The pipevine swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly with iridescent blue wings.
  • It relies on host plants rich in aristolochic acids for protection.
  • The pipevine plant in Virginia and Virginia snakeroot are native host plants.
  • Aristolochic acids in these plants protect the eggs, caterpillars, and adult butterflies.
  • Planting native host plants increases the chances of attracting pipevine swallowtails to your garden.

Identifying the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

The pipevine swallowtail butterfly, characterized by its distinctive swallowtail shape, is a stunning creature to behold. Males showcase iridescent blue lower wings, while females are predominantly black with white spots along the lower wing edge. This stark contrast in coloration between the sexes is a remarkable feature of these butterflies.

When it comes to their life cycle, pipevine swallowtail butterflies begin their journey as red-orange eggs. As caterpillars, they exhibit an interesting behavioral pattern – they start off as gregarious insects, forming groups when young. However, as they mature, these caterpillars become solitary creatures.

The appearance of the caterpillars also undergoes a transformation as they grow. They develop tubercles and longer black antennae-like structures, which distinguish them from their earlier stages. This change in physical attributes is an intriguing aspect of the pipevine swallowtail’s life cycle.

When it is time to transition into the next stage, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis. This chrysalis is camouflaged to resemble a dead leaf, providing protection and blending seamlessly with its surroundings. It is through this transformative process that the pipevine swallowtail prepares itself for the final stage of its life cycle.

As fully grown butterflies, they indulge in nectaring on various flower sources, including thistle, milkweed, ironweed, and phlox. These vibrant flowers serve as a vital food source, sustaining the pipevine swallowtails as they flutter from one blossom to another.

The pipevine swallowtail butterfly’s distinctive appearance and remarkable life cycle make it a fascinating subject for observers and enthusiasts alike.

Pipevine Swallowtail Host Plants

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar Host Plant

The pipevine swallowtail butterfly relies on specific host plants from the Aristolochia genus for its survival and reproduction. These plants, commonly known as pipevines due to their resemblance to tobacco pipes, play a crucial role in supporting the caterpillars’ lifecycle. By planting native Aristolochia species in your area, you can create a hospitable environment for the pipevine swallowtail and contribute to its conservation.

When selecting host plants for pipevine swallowtails, it is essential to choose native species for your region. Non-native pipevines can be harmful or fatal to the caterpillars, as they may lack the necessary toxins that protect against predators. By planting native pipevines, you ensure that the swallowtail caterpillars can sequester these toxins, making them toxic and unappetizing to potential threats.

Here are some recommended native Aristolochia species that serve as excellent host plants for pipevine swallowtails:

  • Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria): This native species is commonly found in eastern parts of the United States, including Virginia. Its heart-shaped leaves and unique flowers make it an attractive addition to any garden.
  • Woolly pipevine (Aristolochia tomentosa): Another native option for the eastern U.S., the woolly pipevine has fuzzy leaves and small, intriguing flowers that provide food and shelter for pipevine swallowtail caterpillars.
  • California pipevine (Aristolochia californica): This native species is well-suited for the southwestern region of the United States, including California. Its vibrant flowers and distinctive leaves attract both pipevine swallowtails and other native butterflies.

It’s important to note that planting elegant pipevine (Aristolochia elegans) should be avoided, as it is generally fatal to pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. Stick to the recommended native species to ensure the success of your pipevine swallowtail habitat.

Creating a Pipevine Swallowtail Sanctuary

By incorporating these native host plants into your garden or landscape, you can attract and support pipevine swallowtails. Consider planting a variety of native flowering plants nearby to provide nectar sources for adult butterflies. These can include thistle, milkweed, ironweed, and phlox, among others. Designing a diverse and abundant habitat will provide food and shelter for pipevine swallowtails throughout their life cycle.

“Planting native Aristolochia species is crucial for the survival of pipevine swallowtails. By creating a welcoming environment with suitable host plants, we can actively contribute to the conservation of these stunning butterflies.”
– [Real Name], Butterfly Enthusiast

Next, we’ll explore ways to attract these beautiful butterflies to your garden and appreciate their remarkable life cycle.

Attracting Pipevine Swallowtails to Your Garden

Best plants for Pipevine swallowtail butterflies

If you want to attract pipevine swallowtails to your garden, planting native pipevines is the key. By providing the appropriate host plants, you can increase the chances of seeing these beautiful butterflies in your garden. Here are some recommendations for the best plants to attract pipevine swallowtails:

RegionRecommended Native Pipevines
Eastern StatesVirginia snakeroot, Woolly pipevine
SouthwestCalifornia pipevine

To find suitable native pipevines for your specific area, consider visiting your local native plant nursery or contacting your county extension office for expert advice. They can provide valuable information on the native pipevines that thrive in your region.

By planting the right host plants, you not only attract pipevine swallowtails, but also support the survival of pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. It is important to avoid planting non-native species, as they can be harmful to these butterflies.

Creating a butterfly-friendly garden with the appropriate host plants will not only beautify your outdoor space but also invite the fascinating pipevine swallowtails to flourish.

Did You Know?

“Attracting pipevine swallowtails to your garden can be a rewarding experience. By providing the right host plants, you create a safe haven for these beautiful butterflies to thrive and for their caterpillars to complete their life cycle.”


In conclusion, attracting pipevine swallowtails to your garden is as simple as providing the right food source. These beautiful butterflies rely on the Aristolochia genus as their primary diet, and planting the appropriate species will support the entire lifecycle of the pipevine swallowtail caterpillar. By creating a welcoming environment with the right host plants, you can enjoy the presence of these vibrant butterflies and witness the incredible transformation from egg to caterpillar to butterfly.

Take the necessary steps to provide a suitable habitat and food source for pipevine swallowtails in your garden. Planting native pipevine host plants, such as Virginia snakeroot and woolly pipevine in the eastern U.S., or California pipevine in the southwest, will offer the necessary sustenance for the caterpillars. This not only benefits the pipevine swallowtails but also contributes to the conservation of these beautiful butterflies.

By incorporating native pipevines into your garden, you are not only attracting pipevine swallowtails but also supporting their survival. Create a garden sanctuary that welcomes these magnificent creatures and adds an enchanting touch of nature to your outdoor space. With the right food source and habitat, you can have the joy of observing pipevine swallowtails flourishing in your own garden.


What are the host plants for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly?

The pipevine swallowtail relies on plants in the Aristolochia genus as their host plants. Some recommended native species include Virginia snakeroot and woolly pipevine in the eastern U.S., and California pipevine in the southwest.

Where can I find native pipevine host plants?

To find native pipevine host plants, you can visit your local native plant nursery or contact your county extension office for advice on suitable species for your area.

Are non-native pipevine species suitable for pipevine swallowtail caterpillars?

No, it is important to avoid planting non-native pipevine species as they can be fatal to pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. Stick to planting native Aristolochia species to support their survival.

How can I attract pipevine swallowtails to my garden?

By planting native pipevine host plants, you can create a welcoming environment for pipevine swallowtails in your garden. This will increase the chances of attracting these beautiful butterflies.

Can I plant elegant pipevine to attract pipevine swallowtails?

No, it is generally fatal to pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. It is advised to avoid planting elegant pipevine and instead focus on native pipevine species.

Last Update: December 29, 2023