Smoking Swallowtails? Dutchman’s Pipevine Butterflies gone wild…

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on Pink Saliva

A male pipevine swallowtail attempts to flirt with a female as she lays her eggs...

I recently visited a grove where the Pipevine Swallowtail’s host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine, grew vigorously. Here, in this shaded and otherwise peaceful wood, there was a state of butterfly pandemonium happening.

Male butterflies zealously chased female butterflies hoping to strike up a romance. The maternally driven ladies ignored the amorous males advances, and instead, tirelessly their laid eggs.


Female Pipevine Butterflies Laying Eggs

Other winged chaps spent their time attempting to defend their precious territories. Boldly these fellows chased their counterparts about the treetops, creating flashes of brilliant blue which rivaled the skies above. Stoic females continued to cooly oviposit, again, dismissing out of wing, the males showy displays.

The forest was a frenzy of flutter! Everywhere I stood I was bombarded by the scuttle of a wing. It was courtship chaos where no basking perch, nectar blossom nor host tendril was safe!

Are these Pipevine Swallowtail ingesting their host plant or smoking it?

The pipevine butterflies exhibited crazed mating and reproductive behaviors, as if they had all gone wild with passion. In no other species have I observed the sexes acting out their respective roles in such a fervent manner.

Made me wonder for a moment, if these swallowtail caterpillars had actually smoked, instead of ingested their host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine?

This hardy vine does, after all, as it’s name suggests, resemble a Dutchman’s pipe. When in bloom it flaunts, amongst it’s green-hearted foliage, oddly shaped flowers which form in an appearance similar to that of a dutchman’s pipe.

Dutchman's Pipevine (Aristolochia gigantea)

Male Pipevine on Purple Penstemon

Whatever the motivation, pipes or genetics, what was going on in the grove that day was nothing short of spectacular to behold for the butterfly enthusiast. Pipevine swallowtails are indeed vibrant and entertaining creatures at every stage of their development.

Years ago, when less exotic planting choices where available at local nurseries, people commonly grew Dutchman’s Pipevine in their gardens. Often they used it to cover and adorn porches, arbors and fences. Pipevine swallowtails could then be found more frequently in populated areas, even in urban neighborhoods.

To ensure the survival of this species be sure to plant Dutchman’s Pipevine somewhere in your yard. Keep Mother Nature’s show going! Support her dramatic and colorful productions. Then just sit back under your vine shaded porch, sway gently on your swing and enjoy the show… and your Pipe?… vine too! KD

Male Pipevine on Yellow Yarrow

Click the  Pipevine’s Wing below to learn more about this swallowtail…

Pipevine Swallowtail Wing


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5 Responses to Smoking Swallowtails? Dutchman’s Pipevine Butterflies gone wild…
  1. cecil white
    December 30, 2012 | 5:53 am

    Need to know planting zone Dutchman’s Pipe

    • OWB
      January 21, 2013 | 10:41 am

      Aristolochia is a large plant genus with over 500 species. Collectively known as birthworts, pipevines or Dutchman’s pipes, they are the namesake of the family (Aristolochiaceae). They are widespread and occur in the most diverse climates. The best thing to do would to contact a local nursery that sells Native Plants and ask them which variety grows in your area. We have noticed that the Pipevine Swallowtails prefer the native variety of Dutchman’s pipevine.

  2. Michelle
    April 17, 2011 | 4:22 am

    The photo of the Pipevine Swallowtail “smoking”/ that is truly amazing. Whoever took these photos captured something I have never witnessed in person or in a photo, until now. Thank you for writing an amazing blog. Beautiful article well done.

  3. Kristen
    March 20, 2011 | 9:26 pm

    HA.. HA… I must have been too when I wrote it… glad you enjoyed! KD

  4. Vickie
    March 20, 2011 | 7:43 pm

    Kristen, you really outdid yourself with this blog, it’s smokin’… LOL

Leave a Reply to Vickie