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Black swallowtail

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Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail, (Papilio polyxenes asterius Stoll) is a black butterfly with yellow markings near the margins of the forewings and hindwings and more limited blue and red markings on the hindwings. Its wing span can reach 4 ½ inches. Full grown parselyworms or caterpillars can reach 2 inches in length and are smooth and green, marked with black bands and yellow spots.


Black swallowtail

Black swallowtail


The black swallowtail mimics the bad tasting pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor (Linnaeus), which is all metallic black-blue on the upper surface of the wings, lacking the yellow and blue markings. Caterpillars feed on pipevines, Dutchman’s-pipe and Virginia snakeroot.


The caterpillar of the black swallowtail is 1-1/2" to 2" long . It often is called the "parsley worm" because it feeds on parsley and other umbelliferous plants. Older larvae are green with black and yellow spots or markings on each segment.


The black swallowtail butterfly, also called the American or parsnip swallowtail, has a wingspan of 2-1/2" to 3-1/2". On the upper surface of the forewings are two parallel rows of yellow submarginal spots that contrast with the basal black color of the wings. These spots are present on the hindwings, but with a curving row of blue spots between the rows of yellow.


Life Cycle: After the black swallowtail butterfly emerges from its cocoon in the spring it deposits eggs on plants in the carrot family. This insect overwinters as pupa on the host
plant. There are two or more generations annually.


Damage:Chews leaves and stems, destroys tops. Seldom numerous enough to reduce yield.


Control: Handpicking these caterpillars is usually sufficient. Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, will work, but its results are not quickly observable. It is not necessary to wait before harvesting after an application of Bt.


Black swallowtail larvae

Black swallowtail larvae

Treat with a registered insecticide if cultural control fails, follow all label instructions regarding wait period between application and harvest.


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