New Jersey Butterflies

Black Swallowtail

Papilio polyxenes

Identification: Large—about 3.2” (smaller than Spicebush Swallowtail). Above: Male FW and HW mostly black and yellow, with a prominent line of large yellow spots across both wings as well as smaller submarginal yellow spots. Females have bright blue on HW near tail and the rows of yellow spots on the FW are smaller. On both sexes, note pale spot near front edge of FW just inward of yellow spots (Spicebush lacks this spot). Below: Black, yellow, orange, and blue. HW has two bands of orange spots, with the inner band normally complete (this band is interrupted on Spicebush). Flies faster than other swallowtails.

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident. Common and widespread throughout but generally less common at the higher elevations in the Highlands and Ridge and Valley provinces.

NJ Range Map-Black Swallowtail

Habitat: Open, sunny, upland fields. Easily attracted to gardens with flowers such as Butterfly Bush, Purple Coneflower, and milkweeds.

Flight Period: Early April to mid-October with peaks in May and July. Extreme dates: North Jersey 4/7—10/19; South Jersey 3/17—11/30.

Larval Food Plants: Plants in the carrot family such as Fennel, Parsley, Dill, and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota).

Overwintering Stage: Pupa.

Best Locations: Whittingham WMA, Schooley’s Mountain CP, Merrill Creek Reservoir, Willowwood Arboretum, Bamboo Brook, Great Swamp NWR, Kay Environmental Center, Forsythe NWR (Brigantine Division), Cape May Point SP.

Comments: Gardeners who plant Fennel and similar species will reap the pleasure of seeing both these lovely butterflies and their cool larvae.



Black Swallowtail

Male, Walpack Twp. (DWGNRA), Sussex Co., NJ, 7/11/08, on Common Milkweed.


Black Swallowtail

Female, Kittatinny Valley SP, Sussex Co., NJ, 8/15/12 on Butterfly Bush.


Black Swallowtail

Fredon Twp., Sussex Co., NJ, 8/18/08, on Brazilian Verbena.


Black Swallowtail larva

First instar larva.


Black Swallowtail larva

Third instar larva eating previous instar skin.


Black Swallowtail larva

Mature larva starting to pupate.


Black Swallowtail pupa

Green pupa, Sussex Co,, NJ, 4/14/17.


Black Swallowtail pupa

Brown pupa, Sussex Co., NJ, 4/14/17.


Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)—one of several host plants.