Spend a moment in our Butterfly Rainforest with Ryan talking about the Pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor, also called the Blue swallowtail. This species is native to North America, including a good deal of Florida.

These butterflies are a model species, which means they are toxic to eat and other butterflies try to look like them to prevent predators from eating them as well. Species like the Spicebush swallowtail mimic them even though they aren’t toxic themselves.


Hello. Welcome to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. My name is Ryan and today we will be releasing a butterfly native to the eastern United States known as the Pipevine swallowtail.

It is what is referred to as a model species, and by this I mean that it is the model for other butterflies, not that it spends time walking down the runway. By model, I mean that this butterfly is toxic and it is trying to let you know that it’s toxic by using the iridescent markings with orange spots on the outside, and kind of this iridescent blue here on the inside to warn you that it is toxic. And it’s toxic because it eats a toxic plant, namely pipevine, or plants in the genus Aristolochia, but because it is toxic, it is the model for a number of other species of butterflies. They defend themselves in the hopes that you out there have already eaten Mr. Pipevine swallowtail and you’ve gotten sick, and you don’t want to eat anything like it.

Similar species would be the Spicebush swallowtail, the Red-spotted purple or the dark phase of the Eastern tiger swallowtail. All are mimicking the Pipevine swallowtail here trying to defend itself.

Hopefully you might get the chance to see this butterfly out in the wild or right here in the Butterfly Rainforest. Either way, we hope you have enjoyed and have a great rest of the day. Thank you.

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Video by Ryan Fessenden; Produced by Radha Krueger