Swallowtail caterpillars are fascinating creatures and an integral part of the life cycle of swallowtail butterflies. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about these captivating insects, making your encounters with them even more enjoyable.
As you become better acquainted with swallowtail caterpillars, you’ll learn about their diverse appearances, diet preferences, and behavior. You’ll also discover how to distinguish them from other caterpillars and how to support their conservation in your own garden. So, let’s dive in and uncover the wonders of the swallowtail caterpillar.
Identifying Swallowtail Caterpillar
Swallowtail caterpillars are easy to recognize with their vibrant colors, including green, black, and yellow-orange. To help you identify them correctly, here are few key characteristics:
- Swallowtail caterpillars have vibrant colors like orange, green, and black.
- Black swallowtail caterpillars have narrow black bands on each body segment, which are interrupted by yellow-orange dots.
- Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars have forewings and body that are black and hind wings with two orange spots.
Keep in mind these key differences when identifying swallowtail caterpillars:
|Black Swallowtail Caterpillar||Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar|
|Colors||Green, black, yellow-orange||Black, white, orange|
|Orange Spots on Hind Wings||No||Yes|
To find swallowtail caterpillars, search for their preferred food sources. For example, black swallowtail caterpillars often feed on plants from the carrot family (Apiaceae), while spicebush swallowtail caterpillars feed on plants like spicebush or sassafras.
Remember that each caterpillar species has its unique characteristics and preferences, so pay attention to these details when identifying them. Happy caterpillar hunting!
Life Cycle of a Swallowtail Caterpillar
The life cycle of a swallowtail caterpillar is fascinating, as it goes through several stages before becoming an adult butterfly. Let’s explore each phase briefly.
Eggs: Swallowtail butterflies start by laying tiny, spherical eggs on host plants. For example, black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on plants from the carrot family.
Instars: As the caterpillar hatches from the egg, it enters the larval stage, which is divided into five instars or growth periods. During each instar, the caterpillar grows and eventually sheds its old skin or molts.
- First instar: Newly hatched, small, and fragile
- Fifth instar: Largest, about to transition to the pupal stage
Metamorphosis: Once the caterpillar has fully grown, it begins transforming into a chrysalis or pupa. This stage is crucial as the caterpillar undergoes significant changes to become a butterfly.
Chrysalis/Pupa: The caterpillar forms a protective casing known as a chrysalis or pupa. Inside this casing, it continues its transformation.
Overwintering: Some swallowtail species, such as black swallowtails, overwinter as pupae. During this time, they remain dormant and well-hidden in a sheltered location to protect themselves from cold temperatures.
Emerging: Finally, after several weeks or months, the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. It pumps fluid into its wings to expand them and waits for them to dry before taking its first flight.
By understanding the life cycle of a swallowtail caterpillar, you can appreciate the fascinating process these beautiful insects undergo. Remember to keep an eye out for them in their various stages as you enjoy nature.
Diet and Habitat
The diet of a Swallowtail Caterpillar consists mainly of plants from the carrot family (Apiaceae). These caterpillars, also known as parsleyworms, have a passion for feasting on specific plants such as parsley, dill, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace. When it comes to your garden, they’re particularly attracted to herbs.
As for swallowtail butterflies, they typically inhabit open areas, like meadows, parks, wetlands, and prairies. You may even spot these stunning creatures fluttering around in your own sunlit backyard!
Here are some key features of Swallowtail Caterpillar’s preferred host plants:
- Queen Anne’s Lace
Adult black swallowtails lay their eggs on these host plants, which then become the primary food source of their caterpillars once they hatch.
By planting some of these herbs in your garden, you’re not only ensuring a visit from swallowtail butterflies, but also providing them with a safe place to lay eggs and nurture their offspring. Alternatively, if you want to avoid a caterpillar invasion, you can choose to grow plants that are not as enticing for the swallowtails – milkweed or rue, for example.
To summarize, Swallowtail Caterpillar’s diet and habitat involve consuming plants from the carrot family (Apiaceae) and residing in open sunny spaces. Just remember, for a friendly encounter with this species, nurture those specific herbs in your garden!
Evasive Techniques and Defense Mechanisms
Swallowtail caterpillars, including the Black Swallowtail, have developed various evasive techniques and defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators like birds, wasps, spiders, and parasitic wasps.
One unique defense mechanism is the osmeterium, a forked, horn-like organ found in all swallowtail larvae. Black Swallowtail caterpillars have a bright yellow-orange osmeterium that resembles a snake’s tongue. When disturbed, the caterpillar will rear up and extend the osmeterium to release a foul odor1. This helps to repel potential predators and keep the caterpillar safe from harm.
As Black Swallowtail caterpillars grow, they go through several instar stages. In the earlier instars, they have a bird dropping-like appearance2. This clever camouflage makes them less likely to be detected by birds and other predators. As they reach the later instars, their coloration changes to green3, which aids in hiding among the plants they feed on.
Here is a quick comparison of the main defense mechanisms in Black Swallowtail caterpillars:
|Osmeterium||Forked, horn-like organ that emits a foul odor when threatened4|
|Camouflage||Bird-dropping appearance in early instars, green coloration in later instars5|
- Black Swallowtail caterpillars have a defensive osmeterium and camouflage to help evade predators
- Early instars resemble bird droppings, while later instar stages have a green coloration
By understanding these evasive techniques and defense mechanisms, you can appreciate the unique ways that swallowtail caterpillars, including the Black Swallowtail, have evolved to survive in their environments.
Role in the Ecosystem
Swallowtail caterpillars play a vital role in the ecosystem as they transform into beautiful butterflies, like the black swallowtail butterfly, which are essential for pollination. These butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, helping to spread pollen and maintain the balance of plant life in their native areas. You’ll find swallowtail butterflies in various parts of North America, ranging from Canada to Mexico, as well as in South America.
When swallowtail caterpillars consume plants, they are also a source of food for many birds and other insects. This keeps the ecosystem in check and allows the food chain to function properly.
As a butterfly enthusiast or nature lover, you might come across swallowtail caterpillars and butterflies in parks and other natural habitats. Here are some features and characteristics of swallowtail caterpillars and their role in the ecosystem:
- Butterflies: Swallowtail butterflies are known for their colorful wings and striking patterns.
- Nectar: These butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, aiding in pollination.
- Birds: Swallowtail caterpillars can serve as a food source for birds.
- Insects: Besides birds, they also provide sustenance for a variety of insects.
- Native Regions: Swallowtails are native to North America (Canada to Mexico) and South America.
- Parks: You can often find swallowtail butterflies in parks and natural habitats.
Thus, swallowtail caterpillars are an important part of the ecosystem. By understanding their role, you can better appreciate the beauty of these creatures and their positive impact on the environment.
Threats and Conservation
Swallowtail caterpillars, although beneficial to the ecosystem, can sometimes be a nuisance in gardens and fields. They can damage your plants by feeding on their leaves. Despite this, you may still want to consider their conservation, as they help pollinate flowers and support the food chain.
To protect your garden, you might take preventive measures. A few ways to prevent them from becoming a pest are:
- Planting sacrificial plants in the outskirts of your garden
- Encouraging natural predators, like birds and insects, to settle and control the caterpillar population
In meadows and fields, swallowtail caterpillars contribute to the overall biodiversity. They serve as a food source for predators like birds, spiders, and wasps.
Here’s a comparison of the pros and cons of having swallowtail caterpillars in your garden:
|Pollinate flowers||Can damage plants|
|Support the food chain||May compete with other beneficial insects for resources|
Now that you have a better understanding of the threats and conservation efforts related to swallowtail caterpillars, you can make an informed decision to balance their presence in your garden and the environment.
How to Attract or Discourage Swallowtail Caterpillars
Attracting Swallowtail Caterpillars to your garden can be a delightful experience, as you’ll have the chance to observe these beautiful butterflies in their natural habitat. To encourage their presence, plant some of their favorite host plants, such as fennel, dill, or parsley. These herbs are rich in nectar and provide food for both the larvae and adult butterflies.
To create a more inviting environment for Swallowtail Caterpillars, consider designing a butterfly nursery in your garden. You can use carrot tops as a natural way to attract them. They’ll lay their eggs on these plants and help maintain the population.
Attracting Swallowtail Caterpillars:
- Plant fennel, dill, or parsley.
- Use carrot tops in your nursery.
- Provide a diverse ecosystem to support various life stages.
However, if you want to discourage Swallowtail Caterpillars from devouring your garden’s herbs, try these methods:
- Cover your herbs with a fine mesh net to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs there.
- Remove any visible caterpillars by hand, using gloves or a paper towel. Dispose of them in a separate container with a tight-fitting lid.
- Encourage their natural predators, such as birds or predatory insects, to keep the caterpillar population under control.
Discouraging Swallowtail Caterpillars:
- Use fine mesh netting to protect herbs.
- Handpick caterpillars with gloves or paper towels.
- Attract natural predators for pest control.
With a bit of planning and effort, you can create a garden that caters to your preferences, whether you want to attract more Swallowtail Caterpillars or discourage them from munching on your precious herbs. Remember to always respect their natural habitat and make informed decisions to ensure a healthy ecosystem.
Interesting Facts about Swallowtail Caterpillars
Swallowtail caterpillars come in a variety of colors and patterns, but most have a combination of yellow and blue. They mainly feed on plants from the Apiaceae (parsley) family, often found munching on branches or leaves.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one of the most common species. These caterpillars have beautiful colors and are found in areas east of the Mississippi River 1. The Spicebush Swallowtail is another fascinating species. Males and females tend to have different appearances, with males having more vibrant colors 2.
Swallowtail caterpillars go through multiple generations each year, evolving from egg to caterpillar, then pupa to butterfly. Remarkably, they have black stripes and yellow-orange dots running along their bodies, which could be a defense mechanism to ward off predators.
These caterpillars need to be cautious when selecting their meals, as certain plants like poison hemlock can be toxic to them. However, they do their part in nature by eating organic waste and recycling it back into the ecosystem.
Once it’s time to transform, Swallowtail caterpillars create a cocoon where they’ll undergo metamorphosis. You might even spot one in your garden if you have plants like zinnias or other flowers that attract butterflies.
Another species, the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, prefers plants from the citrus family and has a unique appearance with its black and red coloration 3. Like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, caterpillars from the parsley family such as the Black Swallowtail play an important ecological role, consuming leaves and flowers from plants like dill, fennel, and parsley 4.
Some Swallowtail caterpillars go through a period of diapause, where they pause their development when environmental conditions are unfavorable. This helps ensure they’ll have a better chance of survival. Places like the M&T Bank Butterflies Live! exhibit showcase different caterpillar species, including the Swallowtail, providing interesting encounters for visitors.
In conclusion, Swallowtail caterpillars are unique insects with fascinating features and behaviors. By being aware of their needs and preferences, you can help protect their populations.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Chinese Swallowtail Caterpillar from Hawaii
Subject: Swallowtail Caterpillar(s?)
Location: Central Oahu, Hawaii
May 21, 2013 7:33 pm
I’ve had a fairly sizable giant swallowtail caterpillar living on my lime tree — I identified it based on the fact that it looked like a bird poo, as well as the little orange antenna-things and the bad smell when it’s alarmed. Two days ago I went outside to see how my little caterpillar friend was doing, and was surprised to find that, while he still had the same basic pattern on his body, it had all taken on a distinctly green hue. (Sadly, I did not get a picture.) Today I went out to check on him again, and found the fat green caterpillar in the second photo in the same general area I was used to finding my mottled friend. It’s definitely a swallowtail too.
My question is: Is this one caterpillar or two? Are giant swallowtail caterpillars known to change their colors and markings? Or is this a different breed and I was just supremely unobservant in not noticing it, again, in the same area as the ”other” one?
Many Caterpillars change their coloration and markings as they molt and grow through the various instar stages. We found a photo in our archive that matches your green Chinese Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio xuthus, a species that feeds on citrus. We learned on the Butterfly Society of Hawaii website that it is the only Swallowtail species documented in Hawaii. Softpedia has a photo of the different instars of the Chinese Swallowtail Caterpillar that resembles the photos of the two instars you have submitted. The same photo can be found on the Insect Hormones page where it is stated: “The swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus, passes through 5 larval stages (“instars”) growing larger after each molt. The first four larval stages resemble bird droppings looking like brown fecal matter with a whitish paste of uric acid (which is the nitrogenous waste of birds). The photograph shows the 3rd (left), 4th (middle), and 5th (right) instars. See how after the fourth molt, the 5th instar has quite a different appearance — being well camouflaged as it feeds on its host plant (right).” While we cannot say for certain that these two are the same individual, we can say that they belong to the same species.
A Reader Comments: October 12, 2014
Thanks for the info. We have been noticing huge butterflies ?? in my back yard. So far, none have landed. My Lemon tree is fully infested with brown and ivory caterpillars of every size. I thought at first it was bird poop, but in looking at them with a magnifying glass and then coming to your web site, they are identified. as Giant Swallowtail butterflies. Their faces do look like Chinese Dragon Caterpillars on some of China’s decorative buildings. Also they are mimicked in the Chinese parade festivities.
How they came to Northwest Arizona in the 85388 area is a mystery. I have lived in Arizona 31 years, have always had citrus trees and never saw these until this year. They literally chew up all the leaves on all my citrus trees. Lemon trees affected the most. There are a lot of lemons on that tree and I don’t know if the lemons will be edible when they mature.Do they bore into the lemons and fruit? If they have not invaded Arizona, they certainly have invaded my yard and Citrus trees. (Newly landscaped yard in Dec.2013 when
Citrus Trees and other plants were planted.) 2 Trees, orange and grapefruit are struggling and growth stunted, while the Lemon tree leaves are being chewed away by the Chinese Swallowtail caterpillars.
In Arizona, they are most likely Giant Swallowtails and the Caterpillars are called Orange Dogs. Giant Swallowtails are native to eastern North America, but the introduction of citrus in Florida provided them with a new source of food. The cultivation of citrus in the southwest is a contributing factor to the increased range of Giant Swallowtails.
Letter 2 – Fuscus Swallowtail Caterpillar from Australia
Location: Cairns Queensland Australia
March 24, 2013 6:36 am
I would love if you could identify this caterpillar for me. It was found on my Kafir Lime Tree in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland, Australia. It is currently the end if the Wet Season, or the beginning of the Sourhern Hemisphere Autumn.
Signature: Scott Duncan
Initially we thought this was an Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar, but your individual lacks the fleshy bumps characteristic of the Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar, so we did some additional research and found the Fuscus Swallowtail, Papilio fuscus, pictured on Butterfly House website where it is described as: “green or brown, mottled with orange, green, yellow, and white, and has a white line along each side. The thoracic and the final abdominal segment each have a pair of conical lumps. The thorax is humped.” Butterfly House also indicates: “The species occurs in the tropical coastal areas of Australia, as several races” with the Queensland subspecies being Papilio fuscus capaneus. It appears this is a new species for our site, so were curious if perhaps we had some individuals misidentified as Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillars, but in checking, we have no other Fuscus Swallowtail Caterpillars on our site. Only the adult and not the caterpillar is pictured on the Brisbane Insect Website. The red horns pictured in your photo is a scent organ, normally concealed, known as the osmeterium. When the caterpillar is disturbed, it reveals the organ that produces a scent thought to repel predators. The organ might also give the caterpillar the appearance of a snake which could startle a bird into fleeing, rather than trying to eat the caterpillar. Many Swallowtail and Birdwing species have caterpillars that possess an osmeterium.
Letter 3 – Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillar Aggregation from Mexico
Bugs chilling in a circle on a tree
Location: Chichen Itza, Mexico (2hrs from Cancun)
November 7, 2010 5:16 pm
I am really curious to learn what these bugs are. I was at the ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico and I saw them on a tree. We took video of them because they would react to noise by twitching slightly. I am sending a still from that video. Let me know if you want me to send it also.
Signature: Jessika Canizalez
Many Caterpillars, and indeed a goodly number of tropical Caterpillars, for aggregations because there is safety in numbers. We do not recognize this species, but their social formation is intriguing. Many Morpho Butterflies have caterpillars that form aggregations. We may try to contact Keith Wolfe who has identified several Morpho species for us in the past. We hope to be able to provide you with a species identification soon.
Update from David Gracer
Caterpillar Aggregation from Honduras: Arsenura armida”
A.armida: very edible!
I tried this species in 4/10 at an international conference on entomophagy; one of the presenters had brought them from Mexico, and said that they’re farmed in the southern part of the country. Fascinating.
They were also exceedingly tasty, if rather unusual. They were fried or rather sauteed, and tasted like a cross between bacon and jerky. Quite yummy, actually.
Thanks for the edibility update Dave. We located a photo of the adult Arsenura armida on God of Insects and learned it is a Giant Silkmoth. We have posted other images of Arsenura armida in the past, though the coloration seemed different and we never received images of this circular “stage coach” defense.
Correction Courtesy of Karl
November 8, 2010
Hi Daniel and Jessika:
I believe your caterpillars are Ruby-spotted Swallowtails (Papilio (=Heraclides) anchisiades idaeus), a species that ranges from Texas to northern South America (or Argentina, depending on the source you read). I found a cluster just like this in Belize in 2007, but was unable to identify the species. It was during my search for an ID that I came across your fabulous WTB site, and I have been addicted ever since. Somewhat ironically, my first submission to WTB was an ID request for this very creature, but my submission was unfortunately lost in your avalanche of email. Compare this photo to a nearly identical one that appeared in Jim Conrad’s Naturalist Newsletter, with identification by social caterpillar specialist Dr. Terrence Fitzgerald. You can check out the Butterflies of America website for pictures of adults and other life stages. Regarding the caterpillars I saw in Belize, I was able to observe them over a five-day period and was struck by their tenacious site fidelity. They spent every day gathered at the exact same spot, low to the ground on the sunny side of a tree trunk. Then every night they disappeared, presumably into the treetop somewhere, but I was never able to find them there. I somehow managed to miss the actual processions, which would have been the really interesting part. When I passed my hand close to them they would raise their heads and wave them vigorously side to side, a gesture no doubt intended to intimidate me. Regards. Karl
Confirmation from Keith Wolfe
NOvember 8, 2010
Daniel, assuming their good fortune continues, this molting aggregation of caterpillars (chillin’ almost certainly on a rutaceous tree) will metamorphose NOT into moths or morphos, but rather Papilio anchisiades or something very closely related. Here is the same gregarious swallowtail species from the same famous Mayan site . . .
http://www.backyardnature.net/n/10/100919.htm (click the link under “Amazing caterpillar picture”*)
. . . and a lesser number of cohorts from elsewhere:
http://www.infojardin.com/foro/showthread.php?t=49198&page=115 (the progeny of at least two females)
* In my experience, P. anchisiades larvae are not processionary.
Letter 4 – Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar from Australia
Location: Australia QLD Redcliffe 4020
December 9, 2011 10:18 pm
Found this Caterpillar today eating my Orange Tree leaves. Like to know what this is and if it’s a thread to the tree or not.
Signature: michael from australia redcliffe QLD
This spectacular caterpillar is that of an Orchard Swallowtail, Papilio aegeus, and we confirmed that identification on the Brisbane Insect website. As you indicated, the caterpillar eats the foliage of orange and other citrus trees, however, the loss of some leaves will not harm the tree appreciably. The red horns at the front of your caterpillar is a scent organ known as the osmeterium. It is normally hidden, but when the caterpillar feels threatened by a predator, the osmeterium is displayed along with an odor that is described as disagreeable.
Letter 5 – Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar from Australia
What will this turn into?
Location: Mareeba Far North Queensland AU
April 30, 2012 8:17 pm
Hi I live in Far North Queensland Australia and I found this catarpillar on my dwarf lemom, I have seen similar picture of the Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly but with no spikes I would love to know exactly what this is please
This is an Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar. The images of Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillars in our archive have spikes. The images of the Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillars on the Brisbane Insect website also have spikes. We don’t know where you found photos of unspiked Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillars.
Letter 6 – Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: Caterpillar ID
Geographic location of the bug: Warner’s Bay NSW
Time: 04:12 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you identify this caterpillar which was on a dwarf Lime Citrus tree? I tried uploading a video before. Wouldn’t allow it. Couldn’t cancel it. Had to start over
How you want your letter signed: Brian Holt
This is the Caterpillar of an Orchard Swallowtail, Papilio aegeus, and you can verify our identification on Butterfly House where it states: “Although this Caterpillar is a pest on suburban Lemon trees, it is one of the most interesting caterpillars in Australia, Both its structure and its behaviour have evolved to an extraordinary degree to give it protective mechanisms against predators. It also grows into one of the largest butterflies to grace suburban gardens.” Here is an image from FlickR. Though they feed on the leaves, unless you have a very small tree and a large number of caterpillars, the damage is not lethal to the tree. We would allow the caterpillar to remain so you can enjoy the adult Orchard Swallowtail.
Thank you for your help. This is exactly the advice I gave my customers on my gardening FB Page. I’d like to publish your response there.
Regards, Brian Holt
HOLTS Prestige Gardens
Letter 7 – Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar
Osmeterium Down Under
Hello Mr Bugman,
My kids found this fellow on our lemon tree, just north of Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia. When I went to pick it up, the bright pink protuberances gave me such a fright that I nearly dropped it! The smell was more floral than offensive but took ages to wash off, and we were fascinated by the aggression with which this rather large caterpillar fought against contact. Of course, we went searching on the net, and learned about the osmeterium, but couldn’t quite identify the caterpillar. It looks somewhat like your US species of swallowtails or is it some type of moth? I thoroughly enjoyed your beautiful website.
It is surprising that once armed with a powerful vocabulary word like osmeterium, that you were unable to properly identify this Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio aegeus, which is sometimes called the Large Citrus Butterfly or just Orchard Butterfly.
Letter 8 – Dainty Swallowtail Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: What type of Caterpillar is this?
Location: Seymour, Victoria, Australia
January 18, 2013 7:21 pm
I had some caterpillars eating away at my Orange tree leaves, they have since been relocated. Are they dangerous to my orange tree? Are they harmful if you touch them? I noticed when they feel threaten they protrude two orange for a lack of a better word tentacles around the head. I thought they might have been OrangeDog, but they are a different colour.
Signature: Regards, Jason
We believe we have correctly identified your caterpillar as that of a Dainty Swallowtail, Papilio anactus, thanks to the Butterfly House website which states: “These Caterpillars are commonly found on cultivated Citrus.” Dainty Swallowtail is a much nicer common name than Dingy Swallowtail, which is also used. We wish you had included a photo of the osmeterium, the forked scent organ that is used when the caterpillar is threatened.
Letter 9 – Puddling Pipevine Swallowtails
Are these butterflies the same species, even though they look so different?
Sat, May 16, 2009 at 9:34 PM
Hi there; I was in the Smokey Mountains yesterday (May 2009) taking pictures and happened upon these little guys. At first I thought they were two different species and thought it was strange they were just kind of hanging out together in the gravel. Even when I walked up to them, they never moved more than a few inches from each other. I did a little digging around online tonight and now I think they may be Pipevine Swallowtails. One with its wings down and the other with its wings up. I was surprised at the difference in appearance from the top of the wings to the bottom of the wings, if in fact that is the case. Please let me know when you get a chance. Thank you so very much.
Cades Cove/Smokey Mountain National Park/Tennessee
You are correct that these are both Pipevine Swallowtails. You are also correct that the upper surface and underside (revealed when the wings are closed) are quite different. The Pipevine Swallowtails in your photo are puddling, or drinking moisture that contains minerals, a common practice of many swallowtail butterflies.
Letter 10 – Tropical Swallowtail Moth from Malaysia
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
January 26, 2012 8:22 pm
This butterfly (?moth) flew in the open window last night and landed on my shoulder while watching TV! Can you help me identify it?
We rather quickly identified your moth as Lyssa zampa on the Habitat News website from Singapore, though it helped greatly that we recognized the family as Uranidae. The Habitat News website states: “The species is found across the Indo-Australian region and is usually enountered in forested areas and nearby urban areas, as it is attracted to the lights there. Altitudinally, they can be found as high as 2,600 metres on Gunung Kinabalu, Sabah! The food plants of the caterpillars are reportedly species of Endospermum (Family Euphorbiaceae); see Barlow’s Moths of Borneo. While they flutter around readily at night, they are usually immobile in the day (unless disturbed and need to relocate to a suitable perch), allowing a good view of their beautiful wings. I remember the spectacular (and at the time, slightly intimidating) sight of numerous individuals perched on ceilings and walls on damp nights when I was a child. I am of the impression they were more numerous three decades ago.” In a more recent posting to the Habitat New website, the moth is called the Tropical Swallowtail Moth.
Thanks Daniel, we really appreciate the feedback!
Letter 11 – Chinese Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillar in Hawaii
swallowtail caterpillar in hawai’i
Location: Honolulu, HI
February 1, 2011 10:33 pm
Can you tell me what kind of swallowtail this is?
Found them on my tangelo…
Signature: local boy
Dear local boy,
We did a web search and found that the Chinese Yellow Swallowtail, Papilio xuthus, is well documented in Hawaii based on the Butterflies of Hawaii website. The image of the caterpillar on the Chinese Yellow Swallowtail pictured on the Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias website matches your specimen.
Wow, that was super-quick!
Mahalo nui Daniel! Me and my kids love the website–mahalo for your labor of love.
Letter 12 – Blue Mountain Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio ulysses, from Australia
what type of caterpillar is this
Location: Queensland (cairns)
January 14, 2011 11:46 pm
I need your help to identify this caterpillar,I found it in my garden
and if you can,can you please find out what the caterpillar eats.
Signature: delaney potoi
We are a bit confused by your request, though we are thrilled to post your photograph. When we first read your email, we thought you had labeled this image “Ulysses Caterpillar” because someone named Ulysses found it. Upon doing our research, we found that it is the caterpillar of the Blue Mountain Swallowtail, Papilio ulysses, which we have always called the Ulysses Swallowtail. It would appear that you already had an identification prior to submitting your request. We identified your caterpillar on the Caterpillars of Australia website which indicates: “In the wild they feed on the new growth foliage of the jungle trees : Fuzzy Lemon Aspen ( Acronychia vestita ), Silver Ash (Flindersia bourjotiana ), Glasswood ( Geijera salicifolia ), Kerosine Wood ( Halfordia kendack ), Yellow Evodia ( Melicope bonwickii ), Pink Princess ( Melicope elleryana ), Little Evodia ( Melicope rubra ), Northern Euodia ( Melicope vitiflora ), and they will also accept the foliage of: Oranges, Lemons, etc. ( Citrus species ), all of RUTACEAE.” The adult butterfly is a beautiful metallic blue butterfly with tails on the hind wings. When a caterpillar is found on a plant, it is a very good indication that the plant is being eaten.
The Butterfly Corner website has nice photos of mounted specimens, and this species is quite popular in decorative collections, but we much prefer the photographs of the living specimens on the Wildlife Australia website. The adult Blue Mountain Swallowtail or Ulysses Swallowtail has been depicted on at least four Australian postage stamps including the two we are including in this posting.
Letter 13 – Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillar aggregation in Argentina
Location: Puerto Libertad, Misiones, Argentina (25°54’59.58”S,54°34’44.14”O)
February 7, 2012 2:02 pm
I was wondering if you can identify this larvae for me. The pictures are not very good. Thanks!
You are too critical of your photos. We find them to be quite excellent both in terms of technical quality as well as aesthetic composition. This social aggregation of caterpillars belong to the species Papilio anchisiades, commonly called the Ruby Spotted Swallowtail. The Butterflies of America website has a photo that matches the caterpillars in your photo. We have posted photos of the caterpillar aggregations of the Ruby Spotted Swallowtail several times in the past. The Ruby Spotted Swallowtail ranges from Mexico to Argentina. The adult Ruby Spotted Swallowtail is a lovely butterfly.
Letter 14 – Two Swallowtails from South Korea
Location: Dongducheon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
July 27, 2011 5:13 am
I live in South Korea and this summer I’ve seen two really cool looking butterflies around. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them on your website yet. Could you help me identify them?
We located a TrekNature South Korean Butterfly website and found one of your swallowtails identified as a Citrus Swallowtail, Papilio xuthus, however, there is another species that goes by the common name Citrus Swallowtail (see our archives). According to the Butterflies of Hawaii website, it is also known as the Chinese Yellow Swallowtail or the Asian Swallowtail. BioLib only provides the name Asian Swallowtail. We believe your other butterfly might be Papilio elwesi because of its broad tails. There is some variability between individuals, but these photos from The Butterfly Corner website look very similar to your individual. Though many of the images are of mounted specimens, we discovered the Lepidoptera Pro website which has images and information on many swallowtails from around the world.
Thank you so much for your quick replies! I did a search for papilio elwesi and it’s too bad it seems every image is of a mounted one. I’ve been seeing them frequently around. They have an unusual gait when flying, it’s almost like they’re too heavy to keep themselves up. The pictures I took of it were a challenge because it was almost too heavy for the flowers it was trying to get nectar from so it kept moving around trying to get a good spot to land. I’m hoping once our torrential rains let up, I’ll have another opportunity to take a clearer picture of one of them. Looking forward to what you think the big fat green caterpillar is 🙂
Letter 15 – Tropical Swallowtail Moth from Singapore: Will it be a banner year for sightings???
Ed. Note: Please submit images of Tropical Swallowtail Moths using our Ask What’s That Bug? link.
Subject: What’s that moth?
May 18, 2014 10:54 pm
Three of the same variety of moths flew into my house on the 16th floor last night at 9pm. I live in Singapore (South East Asia). It’s large, about 21cm wide. While I have had moths visiting before, I’ve never had three visitors of the same kind, especially since I live in a very densely populated housing area. Does this particular species travel in groups? The photos I have attached are pictures of the same moth from different angles.
This Tropical Swallowtail Moth, Lyssa zampa, is a species found throughout Southeast Asia. According to Habitat News which last reported significant sightings in 2010: “In May 2005, Singapore witnessed the widespread occurrence of adult Lyssa zampa, the large, nocturnal white-striped moth known variously as the ‘Tropical Swallowtail Moth’ and the ‘Giant Uranid Moth’. I recalled incidents from my youth when these large moths used to appear seasonally in Singapore on damp nights. Veteran biologist Kok Oi Yee, agreed, saying the moth used to appear in large numbers in Singapore back in the 1960’s and she was sure it used to happened between May to July. Not in recent years though. With urbanisation reducing forest cover and the number of areas near forests in Singapore, perhaps it is not surprising there are fewer observations of large numbers of moths. This outbreak had us discussing the climate and the food plant, reportedly a species of Endospermum but we could not say much beyond speculation.” Large numbers of Tropical Swallowtail Moths appear cyclically, and in certain years there are significant population explosions resulting in numerous sightings. Otterman Speaks reported a sighting this past April.
Some Questions about the Tropical Swallowtail Moth
May 20, 2014 9:45 pm
1) I would just like to know how do you tell the difference between a male and female
tropical swallowtail moth Lyssa zampa (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae) ?
2) Do males and females have different period where they emerge from their chryslis?
3) What do they feed on?
Signature: Hui Min
Dear Hui Min,
We have added your questions to the featured posting of the Tropical Swallowtail Moth. We have already gotten several comments, including a report that about thirty individual were sighted at The National Library Building in Singapore. We will attempt to research your questions.
Letter 16 – Orchard Swallowtail from Australia
whats that moth
Location: Horsfield Bay NSW
December 17, 2010 3:27 am
Found this very large moth in our garden today, we live near Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast.
Signature: Gayle D
The Orchard Swallowtail, Papilio aegeus, in your photo is actually a butterfly. There is a very nice page devoted to the stages of development on the Brisbane Insect website which indicates that your specimen is a female. According to Oz Animals: “The male Orchard Swallowtail has black forewings with an arc of white spots near the tip. The hindwings have a white panel and single small red spot above. The underside of the male wings are black with red and blue spots. The female has black and white forewings and hindwings. The hindwings have blue and white markings.“
Thankyou for the reply, my husband had heard somewhere that the difference between a butterfly and moth was the way the wings stood up on a butterfly and laid flat on a moth, hence our confusion.
I must admit I have never seen a butterfly so big, my boys and I were quite amazed. Is it common for it to be so far south of Qld?
Hi again Gayle,
Though we are not certain exactly how common it is further south, the range is indicated on Csiro.
Letter 17 – Unknown Butterfly Chrysalis
Green Swallowtail Chrysalis??
Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 7:12 PM
Thanks so much for your amazing site!! Yours is a favorite around here!
My husband accidentally washed this Chrysalis off of one of our children’s outdoor toys today. After visiting your site it looked like a some sort of swallowtail, but I haven’t seen such a beautiful green one before. He didn’t see it until after it was washed off so I don’t know if it was right side up , held with a girdle or upside down.
Also is there any way we can save it? It was undamaged and I have been very gentle in my handling of it.
It’s June st today, we live in southern central Washington State in a wooded area at about 200 ft. As you can see the chrysalis is about 1.5 inches long.
Thank you so much, Heidi
cental southern Washington state
The main distinguishing feature of a Swallowtail Chrysalis is the silken girdle that keeps the pupa upright. Since this Chrysalis has been dislodged, it if impossible for us to be certain if the girdle was present. That said, we are not certain that this is a Swallowtail Chrysalis, but it is definitely a butterfly and not a moth. If the Chrysalis is undamaged, it may “hatch” and regarding color, the color of a Chrysalis changes as the metamorphosis occurs. We would love to hear back if and when this Chrysalis hatches , especially if you can provide images of the butterfly.
Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 8:15 PM
Sometimes when I log in, type a comment, and then click “Post”, a message states that my words are awaiting approval. More often, like today, I see no such affirmation, which leads me to suspect that my two comments went into a black hole. Thus, I’m also sending them to you directly – hope that’s OK.
Your beautiful chrysalis is most likely that of the Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) – please see http://www.utahlepsociety.org/peurymedon.html – though Western (P. rutulus) and Two-tailed (P. multicaudata) tiger swallowtails have very similar pupae and are thus possibilities. According to Bob Pyle’s The Butterflies of Cascadia, 2002: “In the northwest, the hostplants are chiefly species of Ceanothus (buckbrush, mountain balm, mountain lilac) east of the Cascades, red alder and cascara on the west side; ocean spray, serviceberry, and bittercherry are also used, and we observed oviposition and reared it on hardhack (Douglas spiraea).” Do any of these shrubs/trees grow on your property? I hope the butterfly emerges OK . . . even better if your family can watch it do so (typically in the morning). Good luck!
Letter 18 – Life Cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail: Part 2
this is the second part of the life cycle.
November 21, 2010
Location: dirt road 4 miles north of nederland colorado in western boulder county.
the next stage the caterpillars turn brown.
they stop eating and hang on a leaf and turn brown. the first picture in this group is of a caterpillar in the process of turning brown. it takes about 8 hours for them to complete this. then they begin their walk about. they walk and walk around looking for a place to pupate.
the 2nd picture is of one of the brown ones on his walk about passing his still green sibling. they are 2 inches long now. the first one turned brown on sept 22, 2009.
when he finds his place on a twig (3rd photo) he will glue his bottom to the twig and then spin a silk thread to hold his top half to the twig. as you can see he is holding on with his pro legs as well. he becomes very still and hangs there for about two days.
the 4th picture shows that he has let go of the twig with his pro legs.
and in the 5th photo he has shed his skin for the last time and is now a chrysalis. i only got to see one of them actually shedding his skin at this stage and i didn’t get a picture. i was surprised at how quickly they come out of that skin and still have the thread attached and the bottom glued. the first one pupated on sept 24,2009. i kept them all winter in a cold room and spritzed them weekly to keep them moist. and it wasn’t till the third week of july 2010 when the first one hatched. by then i was keeping them outside in shade, but warm. i still spritzed them to keep them moist.
the 6th photo is a male two tail just recently hatched. he is still letting his wings harden. it takes a few hours before they are ready to fly. he started to flap around the aquarium and i knew he was ready. this one hatched on july 24th,2010.
the last photo shows him released. he flew into a pine tree and stayed there for a little while. i was elated with each release. all five of the eggs hatched and grew and became chrysalids and were released in the same area i found the eggs. there were two females and three males. the last one hatched on aug. 7th 2010. nearly a year from the date the eggs were laid. what a magical experience for me.
hope this can be of some use to anyone wanting to raise two tailed swallowtails.
Hi again Venice,
We are in awe of your marvelous documentation of the life cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail. Thanks so much for providing this information for our viewership. Dear Readers, be sure to read Part 1 of this metamorphosis if you missed it. Again, we want to add that caterpillars undergo five instars, and we suspect you missed a molt somewhere between four and five, and since your email indicates you never witnessed the molting process until the chrysalis stage, that would indicate the error in your count. Please do not take this as a criticism as we are in awe of your dedication and the wealth of information you have provided.
thanks daniel for letting me know that when they turn brown it is the 5th instar. i was unclear about the terminology for this.
thanks for all of your knowledge. and i am very happy it didn’t take you 2 hours to post.
Letter 19 – Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar
Location: Brisbane, Australia
February 8, 2012 8:04 pm
There are a couple of these guys eating my kaffir lime tree – what sort of caterpillar is he? What sort of butterfly would he become???
Your caterpillar is that of the Orchard Swallowtail, Papilio aegeus, a common species in Australia. The adult Orchard Swallowtail is a lovely butterfly, though lacking namesake tails on the wings found in so many members of the genus. The Caterpillars feed on the leaves of citrus. The Brisbane Insect website has nice images of the entire life cycle of the Orchard Swallowtail.
Thanks! one of the is already pupa-ing up. Can’t wait to see them as butterflies 🙂
Please send photos of the chrysalis and butterfly if possible.
Letter 20 – Aggregation of Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars
Subject: Caterpillar orgy
Location: Antigua, Guatemala
October 13, 2014 8:40 am
I was planting a bunch of ginger in my garden here in Antigua, Guatemala yesterday and noticed an odd discoloration on the base of my lime tree.
When I went in a bit closer I realized it was about three dozen of these caterpillars, who decided to crop dust me en masse with their osmeterium (or as I prefer to call them, Angry Caterpillar Fart Getaway Tubes®.)
What gives? Did the Caligula of caterpillars suddenly move in, or is this some kind of protective herd behavior against predators?
Also, any help in identifying these little hedonists would be appreciated.
Signature: Ornery Regarding Gassy Youths
These sure look like Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars to us, a species in which the caterpillars are social, often being found in large aggregations. According to the Butterflies and Moths of North America, the caterpillars of the Ruby Spotted Swallowtail, Papilio anchisiades, feed on the leaves of: “Trees in the citrus (Rutaceae) family including Citrus, Casimiroa, and Zanthoxylum species” and “Caterpillars rest in clusters on host plant during the day and feed at night; they all feed and molt at the same time.” This communal activity must have some survival benefit for the species, and the group effect of the olfactory defense mechanism must be more effective than the smell produced by a single individual. The adult Ruby Spotted Swallowtail is a pretty butterfly.
Thanks so much for the rapid reply! The Ruby Spotted Swallowtail is indeed quite beautiful. I have been a big fan of WTB for years and it has helped me identify dozens of critters. Keep up the great work.
Letter 21 – Aggregation of Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars from Mexico
Subject: What is it?
Location: Yucatán,Chichén Itzá
October 11, 2012 12:35 pm
What is it?
According to the old adage, there is safety in numbers, and some caterpillars form large aggregations to ensure survival. These are Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars, Papilio (=Heraclides) anchisiades idaeus. Jim Conrad’s Naturalist Newsletter has an excellent description of this phenomenon that includes: “Why might caterpillars aggregate in this fashion? Several reasons can be thought of, including being part of a collective or cooperative foraging behavior, and thermoregulation, but in this case I’d guess that aggregation mainly serves for group defense against predators and parasites. The number of caterpillars might dissuade some predators, and the pattern created by the massed bodies might confuse others.” The adult Ruby Spotted Swallowtail is a lovely black butterfly with red or magenta spots.
Thank you so much for your reply. I wish you success in your work.
Letter 22 – Aggregation of Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars from Mexico
Subject: Moth larvae group
Location: Chichen Itza, Yucatan
August 1, 2014 1:52 am
Can you identify this group of, what I guess are, moth larvae. These were in full view at the base of a tree at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
Signature: Bernard Collen
Good morning Bernard,
Though this is behavior that a person with some knowledge of insects might suspect would indicate that these are moth caterpillars, this is actually an aggregation of Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars. The Ruby Spotted Swallowtail is a lovely butterfly. This social behavior is likely a survival strategy.
Thanks, Daniel, I am surprised! I had assumed they were moth larvae.
Thanks again for your prompt reply
Letter 23 – Androgeus Swallowtail and Caterpillar from Puerto Rico
about a caterpilar
Location: Puerto Rico
November 12, 2011 8:58 am
hey! I’m trying to find whats the name of the bugs I’m sending please replay as soon as possible
Both your caterpillar and adult have a strong resemblance to the Giant Swallowtail, however, there are subtle differences that caused us to doubt that as the correct identification. Here is a photo of a Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar from our archives and a photo of an adult Giant Swallowtail from our archives. Our continued research brought us to the Adven Tours of Puerto Rico website and their butterfly list that included five swallowtails from Puerto Rico including the Androgeus Swallowtail that seemed to be a good match. The Butterflies of Americawebsite pictures this sexually dimorphic species that indicates your adult is a male. The Butterflies and Moths of North America website only pictures the female, but this information is included to support the larval food plant since your photos appear to be citrus leaves: “Caterpillar Hosts: Leaves of trees in citrus (Rutaceae) family orange (Citrus sinensis) and Zanthoxylum elephantiasis.”
Finally, we located this nice image of a stamp from Cuba picturing this lovely butterfly.
Question from Keith Wolfe
November 13, 2011
Daniel, would it be possible to ask Jenny if she’s 100% sure that the splendid emerged butterfly resulted from the pictured brown and white caterpillar? Thank you very much!
Keith Wolfe writes back
November 17, 2011
Despite your follow-up email to Jenny going unanswered, I’m nevertheless convinced that your identification of her caterpillar as an Androgeus Swallowtail (Papilio androgeus) is correct. Good work, Bugman! Although I recognize the larva, to include being familiar with several other look-alikes in its species group, I wanted to double-check with a scholarly list of Puerto Rican butterflies, such as this somewhat dated report — http://academic.uprm.edu/publications/cjs/VOL17/P059-068.PDF (tourism websites are not necessarily a reliable source of scientific information). FYI on another young Androgeus Swallowtail from Ecuador — http://c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000Lx7jqbezL_M/s/1000.
Thanks for the vote of confidence Keith. Your insightful contributions are always most welcomed.
hey! I’m sorry it took me so long to replay, but no the caterpillar is a totally different from the butterfly!
Letter 24 – Another Tropical Swallowtail Moth from Singapore
Subject: Tropical Swallowtail Moth
Location: Near Buona Vista MRT
May 21, 2014 7:40 am
Hi, just to let you know, we live on the 36th floor of an apartment block near Buona Vista MRT, we’ve got 3 Tropical Swallowtail Moths on our balcony and one flying around inside!
Our original posting of a Tropical Swallowtail Moth a few days ago has generated much interest, but your image is only the second we have received this year of this magnificent moth. Our featured posting has generated 20 Comments and 138 Facebook “likes” at this time.
Letter 25 – Blue Mountain Swallowtail
Papilio Ulysses (Ulysses butterfly)
September 6, 2011 7:13 pm
Dear bugman I wanted to know who discovered the ulysses butterfly and how they discovered it?? Thank u for ur time.
Papilio ulysses, a beautiful Australian butterfly that is also known as the Blue Mountain Swallowtail, the Mountain Blue or the Blue Emperor according to the Butterfly Corner, was first described by Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, in 1758. This is one of the most popular butterflies found in decorative collections, but we much prefer the photos of living Blue Mountain Swallowtails that can be viewed on the Tropical Rainforest of Queensland website.
Letter 26 – Broad Banded Swallowtail at Iguazzu Falls Argentina, we believe
Moth at Iguassu, Argentina
Location: Iguassu Falls, Argentina
October 10, 2010 3:42 am
Hi! I was at Iguassu Falls, Argentina in September 2010 when I got this accidental photo of a moth or butterfly. Can anyone identify it?
I’m a little startled because in the photo, the angle makes it look like it’s sitting or behind the rock. Yet the rock was over 30 meters away from me which makes the moth look really REALLY large, like over 40cm wide?! But I know that sounds crazy. It’s was probably just a weird photo and it may have been flying very close to my camera after all. I’m really REALLY curious to know what species this might be.
This sure is an interesting image. We believe it is a Swallowtail Butterfly and not a moth. We can say with some certainty that this butterfly does not have a 40 centimeter wingspan. The largest known butterfly or moth in terms of wingspan is the White Witch, with a 12 inch or 30 centimeter wingspan. The largest butterfly in the Western hemisphere is Papilio homerus from Jamaica, and this Journal of Insect Conservation page is sad regarding its projected future. We located a photo of Heraclides astyalus astyalus on the Butterflies and Beetles of Argentina website, and it appears to match your specimen. The Mariposas Mexicanas website indicates the common name is the Broad Banded Swallowtail, though the subspecies name is different. When a species range is as great as Mexico to Argentina, there are often numerous subspecies due to genetically distinct populations. Your speculation on the size is probably an optical illusion. Swallowtails are often found near damp ground and there are numerous images online of this species puddling, or taking moisture from puddles of water.
Regarding the size illusion: I think the butterfly is not sitting on the rock, but flying in front of it. If you look at the legs, you can see that there is water spray between them and the rock, and there is also no spray in front of the butterfly. If the butterfly was indeed sitting on the rock, it would have been swept away instantly. It is a quite effective optical illusion though–I did a double take when I first saw it.
Letter 27 – Blue Triangle from Malaysia
black and green colour butterfly
November 27, 2009
I got this butterfly specimen from my teacher. It’s wing span is about 8cm.
Malaysia, tropical rain forest
We quickly located this Common Bluebottle or Blue Triangle, Graphium sarpedon, on a Butterflies of Malaysia website. Wikipedia indicates that there are fifteen subspecies with different distributions throughout South and Southeast Asia and Australia.
Letter 28 – Common Mime Caterpillar from Hong Kong
Location: Hong Kong
May 16, 2016 2:39 am
I’m a teacher in Hong Kong and one of my students and I have discovered a sort of caterpillar on campus and we would like to know what kind of bug it is.
We are south of HK, near a beach. The weather is warm and muggy, verging on summer.
We believe this is a Caterpillar of a Butterfly from the family Nymphalidae. We will check with Keith Wolfe to see if he can provide us with a species name.
Keith Wolfe provides a correction.
Hello Candice 老師 and Daniel,
Don’t let those fleshy projections fool you, Bugman. This is actually an immature butterfly in the family Papilionidae, specifically a Common Mime (Chilasa clytia) . . .
. . . which is probably searching for a safe place to pupate.
Thank you very much! There are indeed many butterflies around here.
Letter 29 – Common Rose Swallowtail from Cambodia
Subject: Large black and red butterfly
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
February 28, 2014 3:53 am
I have just found this butterfly in the stairwell of my apartment building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
It couldn’t find it’s way out and me and my teacher were worried that someone else would kill it. So I got a bowl and some paper and set it free outside. It flew all around the building for a while before we lost track of it.
I have seen this butterfly a few times and I’m just interested in it. Hopefully you can give me an answer.
Signature: Chloe (age 14)
When someone sends us an email that indicates unusual kindness to an insect or other bug, we like to tag that posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award, and your identification request is one of those postings. According to The Flying Kiwi Cambodian bug page: “This is a common rose, a type of swallowtail butterfly. They earn their name from their wide distribution, all the way from Afghanistan to China, and from belonging to the genus Atrophaneura, the red-bodied swallowtails. In this case, the red body indicates to birds and other predators that the butterfly is toxic and distasteful to eat.” Because this species is poisonous, other species have evolved to mimic it, and the Confessions of a Lepidopterist site states: “The red spots on these butterflies [Common Mormons] were actually made to mimic another species of butterfly alltogether. The Crimson Rose butterfly (another one of my favourites) that is poisonous and therefore unedible to birds and other predators. The Common Mormon female (carrying the eggs and thus, the lifeline of the butterfly species) has evolved to mimic the wings of Crimson Rose butterflies thus avoiding being eaten. To the trained eye, however, these two butterflies can be distinguished quite simply. The Crimson Rose, as its name suggests come from the family of red-bodied swallowtails that is to say their bodies are colored a brilliant red, advertising the poison that actualy runs in their blood.” According to TrekNature: “The Common Rose (Atrophaneura (Pachliopta) aristolochiae) is a swallowtail butterfly belonging to the Pachliopta subgenus, the Roses, of the genus Atrophaneura or Red-bodied Swallowtails. It is a common butterfly which is extensively distributed across South and South East Asia.”
Letter 30 – Cattleheart Butterfly from Butterfly Pavilion in Costa Rica
Costa Rican Butterflies
June 22, 2010
I recently went on an educational trip to Costa Rica. While there, I saw many different species of butterflies but, now that i’m home, i haven’t been able to figure out the species or even what type of butterflies i had seen. This is a major issue considering the fact that i now must do a project on the different invertebrates i saw while there! The first one was spotted in my shower at a hotel in Arenal. It was hanging from the ceiling and the tear drop shaped “tails” were slightly metalic. I would estimate that it was around 3-4 inches across. The second, was spotted in Tortuguero. it was very small, only about 1.5 inches across and flew rather quickly. And the third we saw in a Butterfly garden. There were several that kept landing on us and they were about… 2 inches across. Thanks so much for your help!
Costa Rica (Arenal, Tortuguero)
We did not respond a second time to Amanda after identifying her Eyetail Moth, but we wanted to post her photo of a Cattleheart Butterfly in the genus Paredes as well. Cattlehearts are in the Swallowtail family and they frequently appear in butterfly pavilions. This might not even be a species native to Costa Rica. It resembles the drawing of the Green Celled Cattleheart, Paredes childrenae, that can be found on the Costa Rica Butterflies Fold-Out Pocket Field Guide webpage.
Karl provides some information
Hi Daniel and Amanda:
It is indeed a Cattleheart in the genus Parides and there are several candidate species that are native to Costa Rica. The Butterflies of America site has an excellent selection of photos of the genus, including several that look very close but none that are an exact match. It could be a Wedge-spotted Cattleheart (Parides panares lycimenes) but I think it is more likely in the P. eurimedes group (P. eurimedes; P. e. mylotes; P. e. mycale; P. mylotes; P. arcas). There seems to be some taxonomic uncertainty here as various combinations of these names (and more) are variously given as species, subspecies or synonyms. It could be any of these if they are distinct, or perhaps a hybrid. The Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) site has a near perfect match that it refers to as P. mylotes. Possible common names include True, Eurimedes or Mylotes Cattleheart. Regards. Karl
Letter 31 – Countdown Six more postings until 20,000: Two Tailed Swallowtail
Subject: Insect I.D.
Location: Southern Utah
March 31, 2015 12:38 pm
Cocoon found under lid of unused garbage can…..I carefully protected and waited to see what came out. Cocoon was gray/black and I expected a moth with little color. What a surprise! Appears to be big Swallowtail Moth, 4-5 inches tip to tip. I can’t find anything exactly like it searching the Web.
I don’t know if this critter is kind of rare down here – Ivins, Utah.
Signature: Kent P.
This Two Tailed Swallowtail, Papilio multicaudatus, is a butterfly, not a moth. According to the Utah Bug Club: “Two Tailed Swallowtail butterflies are large and gorgeous and can occasioanlly be found patrolling neighborhoods that have ash trees (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) growing along the street. These same ash trees serve as the larval host plant for this butterfly. Adults appear on the wing from mid-May through July with a few fresh adults appearing for a small second flight in September. Although finding adults of the Two-Tailed Swallowtail is somewhat inconsistent in our cities, males can usually be found with much more regularity cruising our canyons and ravines in May and June. Caterpillars can be found on choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) from June through August in the mountains.” BugGuide provides this information: “Trivia: This is probably the largest species of Butterfly in North America, with spread specimens sometimes pushing 6 inches in wingspan. However, the Giant Swallowtail – Papilio cresphontes (which definitely averages smaller) is consistently listed as the largest species, and indeed some females of that species can reach very large proportions as well. Occasionally nearly as large is also the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus. So, on an average, everyday basis, P. multicaudatus is largest, but as for the largest specimen recorded, it is probably an open contest.” By all accounts, this is a early sighting.
Letter 32 – Crimson Mormon Swallowtail and art appreciation!!!
Here’s a picture of a butterfly for your web
I looked over your website and I LOVED IT!!! Anyway, Here’s a picture of a butterfly (Red Admiral, I think) for your amazing website
This is a tropical swallowtail, and we cannot give you a species since we don’t even know where the photograph was taken. We do love the art appreciation angle of the swallowtail admiring an image of other butterflies.
Hi I just found out what kind of swallowtail butterfly this is. It’s not a red admiral(my mistake), Its a Crimson Mormon. It’s scientific name is Papilio rumanzovia.
Letter 33 – Common Bluebottle from Asia
February 29, 2012
Recently our friend and neighbor Carol handed us a CD with some butterfly photos taken on a trip to Southeast Asia. Carol did not provide any details. This lovely Common Bluebottle, Graphium sarpedon, is a member of the Swallowtail family and it is puddling. We identified the Common Bluebottle on Butterfly Circle. Often butterflies congregate in large numbers around moist areas to drink mineral rich fluids from mud puddles and damp sandy areas. We will try to get more information from Carol. After reading a bit more on Butterfly Circle, we learned: “Habitat & habits : The males of this species can often be found feeding on roadside seepages or urine-tainted sand. Occasionally, more than eight butterflies can be found congregated on one spot. This swift-flying butterfly is common in the nature reserves. In flight, one normally catches a glimpse of its blue wings. Females are rarer, but often encountered when she tries to oviposit in areas where the host plants grow in abundance.”
Thanks for identifying the butterfly!
The River Ou in Laos was where the riverside photos were taken. We were between Muang La and Luang Prabang.
The caterpillar suspended across a very large open space was probably on a low mountain near a temple near Muang La, Laos.
The other photos were near the Queen’s Garden in a mountainous area near Chiang Rai or Chiang Saen in Thailand.
Where is the butterfly site you are hosting?
Letter 34 – Common Jay Chrysalis and Imago from Philippines
July 27, 2016 12:18 am
May i ask the Family/Genus of this butterfly if that is ok;) coz i like to collect pupa of butterflies and excited to see what it looks like as it emerge…thanks…
This butterfly is in the family Papilionidae a group that includes swallowtails, birdwings and Apollos. We believe we have correctly identified your butterfly as a Common Jay, Arisbe doson gyndes, thanks to images posted to the Philippine Lepidoptera site. Insect Designs also has a nice image.
thank you so much for the identification;)
Letter 35 – Common Rose Caterpillar from India
Subject: Can you help me identify this caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Time: 09:49 PM EDT
Photographed this tiny dinosaur like caterpillar in the campus of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, India.
How you want your letter signed: Bug Identified
We were immediately struck by the resemblance your Caterpillar has to the North American Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar, so we decided to research that lead and found images of the Common Rose Caterpillar, Pachliopta aristolochiae, on Wikimedia Commons that look exactly like your individual. Images of the adult Common Rose are pictured on Butterflies of India. The entire life cycle of the Common Rose is also pictured on Butterflies of India.
Letter 36 – Early Instar Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars from Mexico, we believe
Subject: Worms on trunk of citrus tree
Location: Central coast of Mexico
December 30, 2012 11:23 pm
These worms all line up next to eachother and stick together making a wide band around the trunk of my citrus trees. They move at night and eat leaves off the tree leaving the branches leafless. The pictures show small ones, but sometimes they’re as long as 2” or more.
We believe these are early instar Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars, Papilio anchisiades. The species is common in Mexico, and its caterpillars are feed on citrus and are social, most likely for protection. Butterflies of America has nice images of the life cycle of this lovely butterfly.
Yes, the first photo in the link shows them exactly the way they look here. The butterflies are very common here. I’ve seen lots of them, and also the tiger swallowtail. It’s nice to learn how the butterflies start out and what they change into. Fascinating. Thank you so much for your quick reply and your wonderful website!
Happy New Year,
Letter 37 – Cretan Festoon Butterflies on Crete
Subject: Cretan Festoon butterflies
Geographic location of the bug: Plakias, Crete
Time: 05:08 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: hi there!. You have published some of my pictures before, so I thought you might like these shots I got the past week of male and female Cretan Festoons, Zerynthia cretica at the cliffs near Plakias in Crete. I also have a picture of the weird-looking food plant, Aristolochia cretica, with very strange flowers.
How you want your letter signed: Butterfly twitcher
Dear Butterfly twitcher,
We were not familiar with the common name Festoon. To our eyes, these are what we have always known as Apollo Butterflies or Parnassians. Upon doing some research on RawBirds.com, we learned that the Cretan Festoon, Zerynthia cretica, is “an Old World swallowtail butterfly in the family Papilionidae which is in the genus Allancastria. This endemic species is found only on the Greek island of Crete but some authorities consider it to be a subspecies of the Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisyi) and give it the scientific name (Zerynthia cerisyi cretica). The flight period is from mid-March to June. After the egg laying stage, the caterpillars hatch out to feed on the endemic Cretan Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia cretensis). They then overwinter as a pupae and in mid to late spring emerge as butterflies.” Additional images can be found on Red List and on Euro Butterflies it states: “Formerly considered as a subspecies of the eastern festoon Z. cerisy it is now more often considered as a species. The two species are clearly very similar. Being geographically isolated on Crete it’s not surprising that differences appear, even to the extent of diverging into two species. It’s not the only endemic on the island.” Additional information includes: “Habitat & Behaviour: Grassy scrubland and open woodland. More active in the morning, being much harder to find in the afternoon. It flies unhurriedly up and down slopes, frequently stopping for nectar and to rest on bushes, grasses and the ground. Easily spotted at the roadside while driving through suitable habitat. I also found one flying over the beach and out to see some 20 or 30m before it turned back to land.” Thanks so much for sending in your awesome images as well as an image of the endemic food plant, the Cretan Dutchman’s Pipes
Letter 38 – Bug Humanitarian Award: Etymology and Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillar and Chrysalides
Subject: Yellow Swallowtail Chrysalizing
Geographic location of the bug: West Los Angeles
Time: 11:35 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi Bugman,
I decided to protect a few yellow swallowtail caterpillars from the wasps that patrol my yard, so I put them in a small tank. All four of them have now chrysalized.
By the way, are chrysalizing and chrysalized real words?
How you want your letter signed: Jeff Bremer
You are the one who brought up questions about etymology, the study of words, as well as entomology, the study of insects. Before we answer your question, we want to address some other etymology. Let’s start with “Yellow Swallowtails” because these look like early stages of Anise Swallowtails and you have called Anise Swallowtails by the name Yellow Swallowtails in prior submissions. According to iNaturalist: “Papilio zelicaon, the anise swallowtail, is a common swallowtail butterfly of western North America. Both the upper and lower sides of its wings are black, but the upper wing has a broad yellow stripe across it, giving the butterfly an overall yellow appearance. There are striking blue spots on the rear edge of the rear wing, and the characteristic tails of the swallowtails. Its wingspan is 52–80 mm (2.04-3.15 inches). … There is a somewhat darker subspecies, P. z. nitra, which is rare throughout the range, though somewhat more often found at lower elevations.” Etymology item #2 on our end is that we prefer the little used word chrysalides as the plural form of chrysalis.
Now regarding your questions: Chrysalizing is the name of a new age type of website. According to Merriam-Webster, dictionary listings near chrysalis are: “Chrysal, chrysalid, chrysalides, chrysalis, chrysalises, chrysaloid, Chrysamine” and chrysalizing and chrysalized are noticeably absent, so we have to say that as words, they do not currently exist in the English language, however, we understand perfectly what you would imply should you use those words in a sentence.
Thank you so much for allowing us to indulge in a touch of fun while responding to you.
P.S. We have to tag you with the Bug Humanitarian Award for saving these chrysalides from predation by Wasps.
Letter 39 – Green Triangle from Australia
Geographic location of the bug: North Queensland
Time: 01:14 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello we have a butterfly from north Queensland, the name we were given was Marfarlane’s Triangle, but we cannot find that name online so cannot find the species name, can you please help us
How you want your letter signed: Hannah & Ellie
Dear Hannah & Ellie,
We located images of a similar looking butterfly called a Blue Triangle, Graphium sarpedon, on the Brisbane Insect site, and additional searching of that genus name brought us to the Green Triangle, Graphium macfarlanei, on Butterfly House, and we suspect the common name Marfarlane’s Triangle can also be used.
Letter 40 – Life Cycle of Two Tailed Swallowtail: Part 1
complete life cycle of two tailed swallowtail
November 21, 2010
Location: dirt road 4 miles north of nederland colorado in western boulder county
here are the photo’s i was telling you about of the complete life cycle of two tailed swallowtails. i have to send them in two emails as i am not able to send all 14 photo’s in one email.
the first seven photo’s begin with a picture of the female two tail laying her eggs on a choke cherry bush.
it was aug. 9, 2009. we were on a dirt road 4 miles north of nederland colorado in western boulder county. i had never seen a two tail at this elevation (about 8,500 feet). i found 5 eggs and brought them home to raise. i had never raised butterflies before so the whole process was new to me. and i quickly found out that two tails have a very long process to complete their life cycle.
the 2nd photo is of a hatchling. it is greatly enlarged. the eggs are the size of a pin head and the caterpillar (larvae)is the size of a comma. this is the first instar. the date of the first hatchling was aug. 21st.
seven days later (3rd photo) one molted to the 2nd instar. now they look like bird poop as a protective measure. they didn’t all molt on the same day.
two weeks after that they molted to the 3rd instar (4th photo). they still look similar but are getting bigger all the time and eating more.
about a week later (5th photo)they started molting again and the photo shows one crawling away from his skin. this is the 4th instar and he looks like green velvet. there are several stages to the 4th instar.
the first is the green velvet look then they become brighter green and the white bird shaped marking on their backs still shows (6th photo) and then the white marking disappears (7th photo). they are getting bigger and bigger and eating LOTS!
i will continue this in the 2nd email with the remaining photo’s. thanks, venice
Thanks so much for sending this awesome documentation. We don’t mean to disagree with you, but caterpillars have five instars. We believe the final image in the first half of this series is actually the final or Fifth Instar. When the caterpillar is getting ready to form a chrysalis, it often changes colors, which is where the second half of your series picks up. Dear Readers, Don’t forget to read Part 2 of the Life Cycle of a Two Tailed Swallowtail.
Letter 41 – Mating Palamedes Swallowtails
Palamedes swallowtail mating before wings open
This Palamedes swallowtail just emerged from the chrysalis. He doesn’ t even have his wings open yet.
Winter Springs, FL
Thanks for sending in your awesome documentation of a Palamedes Swallowtail “chrysalis robber” and his mate.
Letter 42 – Mating Pipevine Swallowtails and Caterpillar
Thought you might like this photo. Spring is definitely in the air – we have lots and lots of emerging Pipevine Swallowtails and they’re wasting no time! Took the photo 2 days ago. I’ve also attached some photos of the caterpillars that I took last year. There were so many of these hungry guys (and gals) munching on the pipevine bush that we could actually hear them eating – it was really cool! I also discovered that if you frighten or annoy them, they extend some type of “antennae” from the back of their heads – fascinating and beautiful critters.
Nature Illustrations & Pet Portraits
Your photographs are always so awesome. Both your mating butterflies and the caterpillars are Pipevine Swallowtails, Battus philenor. The caterpillar is displaying its osmeterium, a horned retractable organ that gives off a foul odor. Many swallowtail caterpillars have this defense mechanism.
Letter 43 – Mating Big Greasy Butterflies from Australia
Greasy Sex Picture
Tue, Oct 21, 2008 at 9:19 PM
Probably got your attention now :-), out bird watching and came across these mating Big Greasy Butterflies. Only had the 400mm telephoto on so not as detailed as I would have liked but thought you might like it for the bug love pages. Do many butterflies mate in this face to face position?
Regards the Moths of Australia website, Don is one of my inspirations in the bug world and I emailed him for an ID of the plume moth. He liked the picture so much he asked if he could add it to his page
Hi again Trevor,
This is a beautiful photo of mating Big Greasy Butterflies, Cressida cressida. While the common name is somewhat offputting, it is nonetheless a lovely butterfly. The Big Greasy is also known by the more attractive name Clearwing Swallowtail.
Letter 44 – Mexican Swallowtail Caterpillar
What’s That Bug?
September 8, 2009
in the back yard under a ovacado tree
from jalisco mexico
Dear not sure,
This is a Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar “in the ‘ Pyrrhosticta ‘ group of Papilio swallowtails — P. cleotas ,P. garamas ,P. victorinus , etc.” as previously identified on our site by Keith Wolfe. The red horns are a defense organ known as the osmetrium that releases an odor some predators find offensive.
Letter 45 – 11th Nasty Reader Award: Moth Pupae, NOT Swallowtail Chrysalides
Ed. Note: It was not until after we prepared a response for this query that we noticed what we consider to be a rude (as well as incoherent) retort to our automated response. Though it seems ? was upset at not receiving the requested product, we did not feel that our free internet service should have received such a terse comment, hence we are tagging this posting with the Nasty Reader Award, despite it being not quite as toxic as some other postings with that tag. Perhaps the original product order contained similar grammatical errors and truncated sentences which resulted in shipping the wrong product.
Location: bellingham wa
May 9, 2016 7:39 am
I ordered a REAL LIVE BLUE PHILENOR PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY CHRYSALIS PUPA COCOON. in the description it said the pupa would be brown or green but this is what they sent. do you have any idea what this is?
Our Automated Response:
Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!
Why do you say you will if you do not? I would not of given my email address if.I would of known that you don’t answer back
Letter 46 – Montezuma's Cattleheart strays to California!!!
Black butterfly with red spots on the bottom of its wings
May 2, 2010
I need to know what this butter fly is, i need the common name, the species, and the genus. it is for a project
thank you, kimmy
in monrovia canyon park in california
This is quite an unusual sighting since this is not a native butterfly. Our first thought was that this must be an escapee from a butterfly pavilion, but upon searching through the Mariposa Mexicanas website, we believe we identified your specimen as a Montezuma’s Cattleheart, Parides montezuma. Since it is native to Mexico, it is entirely possibly that it has strayed to California under its own power, or possibly it may have been accidentally imported on a plant or other item that entered the country and bypassed customs. We are tagging your letter as an Invasive Exotic, though it is possible that the butterfly is naturally increasing its range.
Letter 47 – Mystery Swallowtail is Common Mormon
unknown black butterfly
October 21, 2009
Thank you for the identification of the Red headed meadow katydid! It is appreciated. My father took this photo Somewhere in southern Alabama or Mississippi and I could not find this particular black swallowtail. Could you help us out please?
South Alabama bug guy
Dear South Alabama bug guy,
In attempting to answer your question, we stumbled upon a wonderful website, Butterflies of America, that has Papilio thumbnails, as well as the entire family Papilionidae. We could not locate your specimen, and we can’t help but wonder if your father photographed this Swallowtail at a butterfly habitat, or if it is an exotic escapee from a butterfly habitat.
This looks like a Common Mormon (Papilio polytes). It is an Australasian species, particularly common in Southeast Asia, so I expect that you were correct in assuming it was likely an escapee if it was shot in the wild. It is likely a male; the females are mimics of other swallowtails and tend to be variable and more colorful. Regards.
It turns out the common mormon was indeed taken in a butterfly house in Columbus GA… It was with other pics that weren’t. I didn’t think to ask because I didn’t know it was an exotic. But thanks for the info. I really love your website!
Letter 48 – Old World Swallowtail from France
Location: Guérande, France
Date: April 27, 2018
Yesterday Monique and her sister Michele from France visited for coffee and Michele asked about this lovely butterfly, which we identified as an Old World Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, though the common name is just Swallowtail according to the Butterflies of Britain & Europe where it states: “Papilio machaon is widespread and common throughout much of the northern hemisphere. It occurs over the whole of continental Europe, eastward across temperate Asia to Japan; in Africa north of the Sahara; and throughout much of North America. In Britain it is locally common on the Norfolk Broads, an area of fenland and lakes in eastern England.
Individuals originating from France occasionally migrate across the English Channel and have been periodically recorded in Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex and the Isle of Wight, but such sightings are very rare – perhaps one or two sightings per year. Genuine migrants can usually be recognised by their faded and worn appearance. Fresh looking insects seen anywhere apart from Norfolk can be attributed to escaped or deliberately released livestock – both the British subspecies brittanicus and the continental gorganus are commonly reared by hobbyists. ( it is illegal to capture or breed stock of British origin, but nevertheless a widespread practice ).
There are no similar species occurring in Britain.“
Letter 49 – Old World Swallowtail from Portugal
Subject: Euro Version Butterfly — Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)
Location: Porto, Portugal
December 11, 2013 11:44 am
Saw your posts about the Swallowtail chasing in Mt. Washington this year and thought to share the ones I was seeing in Portugal. I loved them because they are so similar to the Oregon ones I am used to seeing (but they are still so enchanting). The Euro version flits through the city especially the parks where it perches in trees and all but disappears despite their showy colors. Remarkable.
Pics were taken in April and May.
Signature: Curious Girl
Dear Curious Girl,
Thanks for sending us your lovely photos of the Old World Swallowtail in its native habitat.
Letter 50 – Oregon Swallowtail
Subject: Butterfly ID
Location: Tom McCall Preserve
June 1, 2014 8:24 am
These photos were all taken near Hood River, Oregon.
Signature: Randy Weatherford
Two of your butterflies are Swallowtails in the genus Papilio, and we are relatively certain one of them is a male Oregon Swallowtail, Papilio machaon oregonius, a subspecies of the Old World Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, based on this and other images on BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “Distinguised from yellow form P. bairdii by having more extensive yellow, and by more northwesterly distribution.” The other Swallowtail appears to be a female, and it is most likely also an Oregon Swallowtail.
Could it be possible that the photo of the black and white butterfly be a “White Admiral”, or an admiral sub species. I have seen many of the swallowtails, only one of the Admiral look a likes.
She is definitely a Swallowtail. She is missing its tails, which might be throwing your perception off. See this image on BugGuide of a female Old World Swallowtail, which is similar but not exactly like your individual. The shape of the wings and the coloration of the body and wings is distinctly different from the White Admiral, though superficially similar. She may be an Indra Swallowtail, also pictured on BugGuide.
Letter 51 – Palamedes Swallowtail
Sorry for the recent barrage of emails but here is another. I believe these are the Palamedes Swallowtail. They were in full abundance at a state reserve near Orlando Florida.
Your emails swarmed into our mailbox in more abundance than the performance enhancing drugs, fake rolexes and porn sites. We really had to pick and choose and we are going for your lovely Palamedes Swallowtail, Papilio palamedes, which is a new species for our archive. This southern species is fond of swamps and though it superficially resembles the black swallowtail, the yellow band on the hind underwing is quite distinctive, and your image showcases it beautifully.
Letter 52 – Palamedes Swallowtail
Subject: brown & white butterfly
Location: Ocean Springs Mississippi
July 28, 2013 7:02 am
Recently on a trip to Ocean Springs, Mississippi I spotted this large brown & white butterfly, is it a swallowtail?
Signature: Rae Nichols
You are correct that this is a Swallowtail, and it is a very old and bedraggled specimen. Its colors are faded, no doubt due to losing some of the scales on the wings and the tattered state of the wings indicates that this individual has experienced and survived a trauma or two, possibly including encounters with birds or other predators. We have identified your Swallowtail as a Palamedes Swallowtail, Papilio palamedes. According to BugGuide: “Adult: very large swallowtail. Dark, resembling Black Swallowtail but yellow stripe on underside of wings is distinctive.” The larval foodplant is Redbay, and BugGuide also includes this alarming note: “A lovely and characteristic butterfly of southeastern swamps. PLEASE NOTE. The Palamedes and Spicebush Swallowtails may face problems over the next several years associated with the introductions of the Redbay ambrosia beetle (RAB), Xyleborus glabratus, and the fungus causing laurel wilt. POPULATIONS OF THIS SPECIES SHOULD BE MONITORED! Sightings of the palamedes across its range are NOW very important. There have been reports of significant decline across the Southeastern states from Florida to North Carolina. Populations along the Gulf seem stable, but decline is likely over the next few seasons. (per. Comm.)” Hopefully your individual was able to mate and find a suitable Redbay to lay eggs for a future generation.
Letter 53 – Pale Swallowtail
Is this a Swallowtail? I have seen yellow ones before but don’t recall seeing the ivory. Thanks,
Nevada City, CA
This is a Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon. For more information, please refer to BugGuide.
Letter 54 – Pale Swallowtail
Subject: Western Tiger Swallowtail
Location: Seabeck, Washington
August 22, 2012 11:23 pm
I see you are looking for photos of the Western Tiger Swallowtail. I am not a bug expert, so I can’t be 100% certain I have the right butterfly. However, I have attached one of my better images for your consideration. Please contact me … if I can provide other and/or higher-resolution images.
This is not a Western Tiger Swallowtail, but we are quite thrilled to post this other underrepresented species on our site, and we would also gladly take higher resolution images. This is a Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon, also known as a Pale Tiger Swallowtail or Pallid Tiger Swallowtail. This is a west coast species. You can read more about it on BugGuide.
Letter 55 – Pale Swallowtail and California Tortoiseshell
Photos you might like to use
I will join the onslaught of letters and photos. I looked at your Papilio collection and noticed no tiger swallowtail with this white background. You have plenty so you may not want this one. Photo taken of tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus?) on a thimbleberry leaf (Rubus parviflora) eastside Cascade Mountains, Oregon. Here’s another butterfly (Nymphalis californica I think) on dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) flowers loved by many different insects. Also eastside Cascades Oregon Best regards,
We are very excited to get your photo of what we believe to be a Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon. It is very similar to the Western Tiger Swallowtail, but paler. Your California Tortoiseshell image is also much appreciated.
Letter 56 – Polydamas Swallowtail: Caterpillar and Butterfly
polydamas swallowtailswallow tail
Adult and caterpillar Port Orange, Florida
Thanks for sending in your photos of Battus polydamas.
Letter 57 – Polydamus Swallowtail and Longtailed Skipper
Photos for your site
I have some photos of butterflies for your website. I see you don’t have these species.
|Polydamus Swallowtail||Longtailed Skipper|
Thank you so much. The image you have labeled Spicebush Swallowtail is actually a Polydamus Swallowtail, Battus polydamas. The Longtailed Skipper is Urbanus proteus..
Letter 58 – Polydamus Swallowtail Caterpillars
Unknown Caterpillar from 2004
I was just looking through you caterpillar page looking for a pic that may resemble a cat I have in my garden and came across, a pic you were unable to identify on 7/30/2004 from Texas. You thought it was a Pipevine Swallowtail, but in fact it is a Polydamas (Goldrim) Swallowtail Caterpillar. I live in Texas and have them in my Butterfly Garden. They are very similar to the Pipevine in that the caterpillers both eat Aristilochia plant, but Pipevine Swallowtails turn black and Polydamas, have the horns and are known to be reddish during later instars, they come in other chocolate like striped colors also. Hope this Helps!
Here are some pics of mine:)
Thank you so much for setting us straight. We have never seen images of the Polydamus Swallowtail Caterpillar, Battus polydamus. Your striped specimens are very distinctive, and quite different from the late instar red caterpillar we identified as a Pipevine Swallowtail. We are going to defer to your assessment of our misidentification, and know that there are several other probable misidentifications of the same caterpillar elsewhere on our caterpillar pages.
Letter 59 – Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
Is this a swallowtail caterpillar?
Location: Riviera Nayarit (Puerto Vallarta)
December 4, 2011 4:27 pm
Hi there, we were in the Riviera Nayarit (Puerto Vallarta area)late November and one evening as we left the resort bar we came across this bug. I’ve been looking around and I think it’s a swallowtail, but it’s also more gross than any of the swallowtails I’ve seen in pictures so far. Could it be that the caterpillar is in late pupa stages? Is it even a swallowtail? Any help you can give would be appreciated.
Signature: Michelle Gessner
This might be a Swallowtail Caterpillar, but some Sphinx Moth Caterpillars also have eyespots. Sadly, your photo does not show the anterior end where a caudal horn is found on most Sphinx Caterpillars. Hopefully we will have time in the future to allot to trying to determine a species identity.
Update courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Michelle:
I think your second hunch is probably correct. It looks like a Sphinx caterpillar in the genus Madoryx (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae). It looks very similar to the pre-pupal M. plutonius specimens on the Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) site. This species apparently doesn’t occur as far north as Mexico but a subspecies, M. plutonius dentatus, lives in Mexico and Belize. And yes, this appears to be one of those hornless varieties of Sphinx caterpillars. Regards. Karl
Thanks for taking the time to do this bit of sleuthing.
Letter 60 – Pre-Pupal Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Subject: What’s this caterpillar?
Geographic location of the bug: Hingham, MA
Time: 08:38 AM EDT
Hello, my sons have never seen this type of caterpillar and would love to know what it is called and more about it!
How you want your letter signed: #askingforhersons
This whimsical looking caterpillar is a pre-pupal Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar. The orange color indicates it is pre-pupal, and just prior to pupation, the normally green caterpillars often turn orange when they leave the trees they have been feeding upon to search for an appropriate site to commence metamorphosis. Here is a BugGuide image for comparison. Interestingly, we have many more images on our site of the caterpillars than we do of the beautiful black adult Spicebush Swallowtails with their distinctive green spots.
Letter 61 – Prepupal Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Subject: Unknown creature
Location: New Jersey
September 9, 2013 8:30 am
Can you identify this creature? It has a lot of people wondering.
This is a prepupal Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar. Just prior to pupation, the normally green caterpillars often change color. If you look closely, you should be able to see a silken girdle that keeps the chrysalis upright. Within a day, this caterpillar should metamorphose into a chrysalis. We would love a followup photo of the chrysalis if you are able to take it.
Letter 62 – Possibly Two-Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar
Subject: Caterpillar ID
Location: santa fe, new mexico
October 26, 2013 4:08 pm
This one is from a friend in Santa Fe. It didn’t look like you had a photo on your site, so I figured I’d ask if you knew what species it was.
This is a Swallowtail Caterpillar, and it might be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar, but considering your location, we think it is more likely the caterpillar of a Two-Tailed Swallowtail. This image from BugGuide is a nearly perfect match to your individual. Many caterpillars change color just prior to pupation. This caterpillar was most likely green until just recently. The orange color is an indication that it has finished feeding and it is searching for a good location to transform into a chrysalis.
Letter 63 – Puddling Ruby Spotted Swallowtail and Sulphur Butterflies from Brazil
Subject: Yellow & white butterflies
Geographic location of the bug: Rio Aripuana ~500 km upstream Manaus
Time: 01:10 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:
1) The target species on this image is a Heraclides (Papilio) anchisiades, Id:ed by Jorge Bizarro, one of the top people on Nymphalides and Moths and Hawk Moths in tropical America. The yellow ones and white ones I have not Id:ed. I have learned there are several similar species. I ´d appreciate if you like to give them a try. Photo taken Rio Aripuana Brazil bout 450 km upstream from Manaus 2019-10-05.
How you want your letter signed: Stefan
Thanks for sending your image of a puddling Ruby Spotted Swallowtail. According to Learn About Butterflies: “Heraclides anchisiades is a very common and widespread species, found from Texas to Paraguay.” The yellow and white butterflies are in the family Pieridae, the Whites and Sulphurs, but we cannot provide you with a conclusive species identification based on your image. There are many species pictured on Butterflies of the Amazon & Andes. This puddling behavior is a communal activity that often involves several different families of butterflies congregating to take in moisture as well as dissolved minerals.
Letter 64 – Ruby Spotted Swallowtail
October 24, 2011
I think it’s Ruby-Spotted Swallowtail, the same that bugguide describes as “Rare in the lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Has strayed as far north as Kansas.” The location is Pirituba, São Paulo, Brazil.
The range of the Ruby Spotted Swallowtail, Papilio anchisiades, is “From south Texas south to Argentina” according to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, and Brazil is certainly in that range. According to Butterfly Corner, it is also called the Red Spotted Swallowtail.
Letter 65 – Scarce Swallowtail from Hungary
Subject: Hungarian Butterflies
Geographic location of the bug: Hungary May 2018
Time: 03:18 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello there!
I have sent a few of my butterfly pictures to you in the past and I thought you might like a couple more for your site from a trip I made to Hungary earlier this year. The first is a Common Glider, the second is a Scarce Swallowtail
How you want your letter signed: Butterfly watcher
Dear Butterfly watcher,
Thank you so much for clarifying the date of this sighting, which differs considerably from your submission date. The Scarce Swallowtail, Iphiclides podalirius, is a new species for our site. According to Learn about Butterflies: “Iphiclides podalirius is distributed across most of central and southern Europe, excluding the British Isles, Ireland and Fennoscandia.
Its common name Scarce Swallowtail refers to the fact that it has on extremely rare occasions been recorded in Britain, e.g. in 1895 two specimens were captured, one in Devon and the other in Kent. These may however have been ‘fake’ captures, a practice common in the Victorian era when collectors would do almost anything to raise their status among their contemporaries. There is no evidence that the species was ever a resident or regular migrant to the British Isles.
In Europe the butterfly is widespread and fairly common, although it has become much scarcer in recent years as a result of the removal of blackthorn bushes and hedges.” The site also states: “Both sexes are usually encountered singly. Males visit seepages and patches of damp soil where they imbibe mineralised moisture. At such times they keep their wings firmly closed. Females are more often seen nectaring at the flowers of trees and bushes including apple, pear, cherry, lilac and Buddleia, but also visit herbaceous plants including valerian, bugle, thistles, knapweeds, ragwort and stonecrop. When nectaring the wings are usually held at a 45° angle.” It is also pictured on UK Butterflies.
Letter 66 – Swallowtail from Brazil: Papilio thoas
Subject: What butterfly is this?
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
January 21, 2016 5:15 pm
I’ve taken this photo today on my garden. I’m from São Paulo, Brazil, and I’ve never seen this here.
Could someone please identify it?
Signature: David Lynch
We believe we have correctly identified your swallowtail as Heraclides (formerly Papilio) thoas which you can verify by comparing your individual to the image on Butterflies of America or on FlickR. As Wikipedia demonstrates, this lovely Swallowtail was commemorated on a Brazilian stamp in 1971. According to the Butterflies of America, the larval food plant is Piper auritum, commonly called hoja santa in Spanish speaking countries.
Letter 67 – Swallowtail Chrysalis probably Pale Swallowtail
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
October 29, 2016 9:56 am
They seem to be stationary over 2 days, they seem not to have even moved
I am an arborist and found them on a young ash tree, could they be feeding on the sap?
They are about 2 inches or 5 cm long and the photo taken in late October 2016
Signature: Richard Lange
This is the Chrysalis of a Swallowtail Butterfly in the genus Papilio. Since you are an arborist and you were able to identify the tree, we suspect this is the Chrysalis of a Pale Swallowtail, a species with a caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of Ash and other trees, and that ranges in your area. According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed on foliage of woody plants in several families: Rosaceae (cherry, e.g., Prunus emarginata, Holly-leaved Cherry, Prunus ilicifolia), Rhamnaceae (California Coffee-berry, Rhamnus californica, Ceanothus spp.), Oleaceae (ash, Fraxinus) and Betulaceae. Overwinters as pupa, adults emerge in spring. Males seek hilltops for mating.” Based on the BugGuide information, you will have to wait for spring to see the adult Pale Swallowtail emerge.
Thank you so much for your fast reply
Richard Lange – Tree MD®
Letter 68 – Cattleheart Swallowtail from Costa Rica
Subject: Butterfly Identification
Location: Costa Rica cloud forest, elevation approx. 5500 feet.
March 15, 2015 7:30 pm
Any thoughts on what butterfly this might be? At first, I thought it was a Heliconius pachinus but the pinkish markings on the wings don’t seem to be consistent with that species.
Signature: Jackie C.
This is actually one of the Swallowtail Butterflies, probably a Ruby Spotted Swallowtail, Papilio anchisiades. According to Keith Wolfe who often responds to caterpillar identification queries we receive: “This abundant and widespread swallowtail is commonly found in areas disturbed by human activities.” We are surmising that your sighting might be associated with an eco-tourism trip.
Thank you so much for the identification help. I’ve been coming across all kinds of new creatures since moving from the US to Costa Rica and some are quite challenging to identify! Thanks for doing what you do… and love your website!
Have a great rest of the day!
Letter 69 – Swallowtail from Mexico
Hi, I’ve seen this Butterflie in Mexico….. What is?
This is one of the Swallowtail Butterflies in the subfamily Papilioninae. Many members from this group have tailed hind wings. Your image is not a species we recognize, but the markings are remarkably similar to a tailed species known as the Pipevine Swallowtial, Battus philenor. That butterfly ranges in Mexico and we do not want to rule out the possibility that your butterfly is a Pipevine Swallowtail that has lost its tails. The fragility of the wings often results in those appendages being easily damaged and lost.
Letter 70 – Swallowtail from Tanzania
Subject: Papilio on Tanzania Highlands
Location: Loliondo Highlands, see above.
January 15, 2016 11:38 pm
I have not yet learned wat you include in the expression BUG. I just received an id-ed Idolomantis diabolica, I´m grateful for that. I guess you include butterflies.
During eco-safai in northern Tanzania I studied mainly birds, mammals and reptiles but photographed a few butterflies.
In the genus Papilio. there is a fair number of species with the common name Green-banded Swallowtaul. They were not easy to get fair photos of since they were rather cautious (- for good reasons). Iam pretty sure I saw at least three species during my trip. None of them I caught on fair photos. Yet I believe you can identify at least some of them by their geographic location + habitat. I´m ready to pit it to a test. The encolsed animal I photographed in a forest patch at about 2500 metres a.s.l. on Lolliondo Highlands, Tanzania almost at the botrder of Kenya.
To me it seems like a very long shot to get a name on that, but it´s worth a try,
The animal was photographed nexst to a small stream, revived by the last days rain on Nov 13.
From what I have learned, the subterminal white spots on upper hind wings are rather clear for a Green-banded Swallowtail on this individual. (- barely visible on this photo)
In our most loose interpretation, a “bug” is a creature that crawls, so we include worms, amphibians and lizards on our site, though we are mainly concerned with Arthropods of all kinds. We are not prepared to go on record with your Swallowtail identification beyond the genus, and we know first hand how difficult it can be to get a good image of a Swallowtail that is soaring, but refusing to land.
Letter 71 – Swallowtail from the Philippines: Atrophaneura semperi supernotata
bright red-bodied butterfly
This bright red-bodied butterfly is from the Phillipines. I think it might be of the Rose family but I can’t find it on the Web. Can you identify it for me? Thanks
We do not have the time this morning to properly identify your Swallowtail Butterfly. There are several endangered species in the Philippines but we need additional time to research. We have a suspicion that one of our readers (who should be on our payroll if we had a payroll) will identify this before we log on again.
I did a little bit more research, and it seems to me as if the red body means it is definitely a Rose Swallowtail, specifically a Red-Bodied Swallowtail of the genus or subgenus Pachliopta, (aka genus Atrophaneura). In some of these species the female is colored less spectacularly than the male, and so perhaps we are seeing the female of a species which is normally illustrated with the more highly-marked male? I can’t seem to get this to species, but here is an image of what I assume is a related Australia species: http://users.chariot.net.au/~erg/polydoraqueensl_ad_f.jpg
Some of the species in the genus Atrophaneura are known as Batwings. The one that most closely resembles the image is Atrophaneura varuna zaleucus which seems to have considerable variability. We were still not satisfied that this was a proper identification and continued our research. FINALLY, we arrived at an exact match: a male Atrophaneura semperi supernotata which is from the Philippines and is offered for sale on The Insect Company. Other examples of this species do not appear to be an exact match, so perhaps this variation is only found in the Philippines.
Letter 72 – Swallowtail Moth and Arctiid Moth from the Solomon Islands
Subject: Butterflies from Makira, Solomon Islands
Location: Makira Island, Solomon Islands
February 20, 2013 11:39 am
Can you help me ID the following butterflies/moths?
Image 1 – seen with damaged wing, day flying.
Image 2 – I think this is a Swallowtail moth? Seen resting in a rock crevice during the day.
We agree with your identification of the Swallowtail Moth, possibly Lyssa mutata. The other moth is an Arctiid or Tiger Moth. We believe we have correctly identified it as Euchromia creusa on the Papua Insects Foundation website. There are nice photos of living individuals on Butterfly House.
Letter 73 – Swallowtail Moth from Costa Rica
Just returned from a trip to the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. While walking on the beach I photographed this beautiful butterfly. Black and green swallowtail. Is it in the Graphium family or??? thanks,
It might seem deceptive that it is brightly colored, flies by day, but is not a butterfly. This is a Swallowtail Moth, Urania fulgens. We found a website that indicates that this Central and South American species occasionally ranges into Florida. This species is prone to population explosions and mass migrations.
Letter 74 – Swallowtail Moth from Ecuador
bug identification request
I saw the attached bug in Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon. My guide told me it was a swallow-tailed moth, but it looks nothing like the description (and picture) on wikipedia. Can you help identify? Thanks,
Your image is of a diurnal moth in the genus Urania and Swallowtail Moth seems to be a good enough descriptive name. According to an image we located on the God of Insects website, it might be either Urania leilus or Urania fulgens or it might be a related species in the genus. It seems this is a popular genus with collectors as evidenced by the number of websites with mounted specimens for sale.
Letter 75 – Swallowtail Moth from the Solomon Islands
Subject: butterfly in Solomon Islands
Location: Honiara, Solomon Islands
July 23, 2012 6:42 am
Trying to find the name of the butterfly I saw today in Solomon Islands.
Signature: Kengo Hoshina
This is not a butterfly. It is a moth in the family Uraniidae, and we recall a similar looking species from our archive. We found this image of a Tropical Swallowtail Moth from Malaysia, Lyssa zampa, posted in January, and it appears to be closely related to your individual. Knowing that islands often contain distinct species and subspecies that have developed in isolation, we tried to find any references to moths from the genus Lyssa on the internet. The only match was what appears to be your moth on FlickR, but alas, it is not identified though the location is listed as Vara Creek, Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The subfamily Uraniinae on Wikipedia mentions a species from the Solomon Islands, Lyssa mutata, but there are no photos and we could not locate any photos of Lyssa mutata on other websites online. We can only speculate that your moth might be Lyssa mutata, but in the event we are wrong, we are still confident that we have correctly identified the genus.
Letter 76 – Swallowtail from Oman
July 4, 2014 7:12 am
Could you please help me to find out what is the type of my butterfly?
Thanks a lot
Despite lacking tails on its hindwings, your butterfly is in the family Papilionidae, and most of the members of the family are commonly called Swallowtails. Using the site Butterfly Corner, we have identified your butterfly as Papilio demodocus, a species commonly called Citrus butterfly, Orange Dog or Christmas Butterfly, though some of those common names are shared by other members of the genus.
Letter 77 – Three Swallowtails in NorthEast Ohio
Subject: Tiger Swallowtail, Black Tiger Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail
Geographic location of the bug: Campbell, Ohio
Time: 3:30 PM EDT
Daniel has been enjoying seeing butterflies of his youth growing up east of Youngstown on the Pennsylvania border. Daniel’s mother Pearl’s garden has gotten greatly overgrown, but some of that growth consists of native flowering plants, though Daniel has vowed to dig up some Joe Pye Weed and Ironweed to add to the native meadow plants that have begun to proliferate. The first Swallowtail Daniel was able to photograph was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Daniel’s friend Sharon arrived on Monday and on Tuesday a trip to Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek Park, Youngstown, Ohio included a sighting of a black female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in Daniel’s garden in Ohio are much more wary that the unusual black female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail who allowed Daniel to get many camera angles.
And just this morning, a female Black Swallowtail visited the large thistle that Daniel has allowed to grow in the meadow garden because so many insects are attracted to it. Daniel has also seen Goldfinches taking seeds from thistle heads.
Letter 78 – Tropical Swallowtail Moth
Subject: Maybe a moth?
Geographic location of the bug: Subic Bay, Phillipians
Time: 10:29 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This bug was chilling on our ship when we were docked in a Subic Bay. The wing span, tip to tip, was about 6 inches or so. The picture was taken 10/11/2017.How you want your letter signed: Jeremy
This is a Tropical Swallowtail Moth, Lyssa zampa, a species that has periodic population explosions.
Letter 79 – Tropical Swallowtail Moth from Malaysia
Subject: Brown moth?
Location: Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia
July 8, 2014 9:52 pm
I found this little fella almost everyday with broken wing on my floor. It’s a pitiful sight and I’m wondering if there is anything I can do for these moths besides moving them away from the floor? (My house-mates always tried to kill them if I don’t) I didn’t touch their wings though; instead I let them climb on my hands by their own before moving them away from the floor. I lived in a city, but these moths are literally everywhere. The wind is harsh too since the location is very near to the coast and because of the monsoon season and stuffs.
Signature: Concerned bug-lover
Dear Concerned bug-lover,
Thanks for resending the image. The first attempt resulted in a corrupted file that we were unable to open. This is a Tropical Swallowtail Moth, Lyssa zampa, and we first published an account of a sighting this year in April, and then in May, we made a second report from Singapore a featured posting that we just demoted to a normal posting in our archives after getting 153 Facebook “likes” on the posting. This year appears to have been and continues to be a year of numerous sightings. There are significant increases in the population of Tropical Swallowtail Moths every few years. Because of your concern for the disabled moths you keep finding, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award. Sadly, once the wings have been mangled, either by a human with a vendetta or a hungry predator, the moths will be unable to fly.
Letter 80 – Tropical Swallowtail Moth from the Philippines
Subject: Phillipino butterfly
Location: Manilla, Philippines
April 28, 2014 3:50 am
My brother is working in the Philippines, and he found this gorgeous butterfly in the entrance to his office building today. The quality isn’t great, it was taken with his cell phone but you can still see details.
I was wondering if you could help me give it a name.
Thanks, and continue your wonderful work! This is really a wonderful website!
Signature: Ben, from Israel
Hi again Bugman,
I found it! Turns out it’s a tropical swallowtail moth, Lyssa zampa, and not a butterfly.
Feel free to post it on your website,
Thanks for forwarding your brother’s image of a Tropical Swallowtail Moth, and thanks for the compliment as well.
Letter 81 – Tropical Swallowtail Moth from Singapore
Subject: Tropical Swallowtail Moth
July 31, 2014 10:59 pm
Sorry that this is a couple of months late. I had the chance to take some pictures of this pretty thing some time back in June. It was resting on the other side of the glass pane right in front of me. Unfortunately, I was only equipped with my smart phone camera, so please pardon the image quality. I hope these images are useful to you; viewing a moth from its underside was very interesting.
Love the site! Images of pretty bugs inspire me in my creative endeavors. Thank you for hosting so many of them.
We received four other images of Tropical Swallowtail Moths this year, and your image is probably the best. We also received numerous comments of sightings without images. Seems it was a banner year for this species that puts in cyclical appearances.
Letter 82 – Two-Tailed Swallowtail
I found this in my front yard this morning. I thought it had been hit by a car and was dead, but upon closer inspection, I saw that it was just moving very slowly. I noticed that it was an unsually cold morning here in El Paso. I scooped it up and saved it in a box. Don’t worry, I didn’t touch it. When the day was warmer, and my kids were home from school, we opened up the box. It stayed long enough for a good look from the kids and flew away. I think I identified it as a Tiger Swallowtail, but is it a two tailed Swallowtail? Is the any way to tell the sex just by looking? Thanks,
El Paso, TX
We believe this is a Two-Tailed Swallowtail, Papilio multicaudata. According to BugGuide and some other sources, the stripes on the forewings are generally thinner than this, though this might also be an indication that this is a female.
Letter 83 – Two-Tailed Swallowtail
Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail
July 18, 2009
I photographed this beautiful specimen in Cornville, Arizona
Thanks for sending us your photo of a Two-Tailed Swallowtail, Papilio multicaudata, which can also be viewed on BugGuide.
Letter 84 – Two Tailed Swallowtail
Location: Applewood, Golden, Colorado
July 25, 2011
Thank you so much for the speedy reply. It really made Hannah’s day!
Here is the drawing that she made to save for her bug journal.
We catch, study and release a lot of Swallow Tail Butterflies in our back yard too (see second pic). Is there a similar trick to determining the sex of that species?
Hi again Charley and Hannah,
This is a male Two Tailed Swallowtail, Papilio multicaudata. According to bugGuide: “Upper surface of male forewing with narrow black stripes. Each hindwing has 2 tails.(1) If abdomen is visible, male claspers are obvious as a yellow segment at the tip, beyond the black stripe. Females often have broader black stripes, and more blue on the upperside.” The narrower stripes and limited blue indicate that this is a male.
Letter 85 – Two Tailed Swallowtail: Adult and Caterpillar
Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail
I really enjoyed looking at your site. I have these photos I thought you might like to see of the Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail. I think it’s just so awesome! The first photo is one I raised that eclosed out of season (due to warm winter weather). The second is the final stage of the caterpillar. In Texas they really like to use the Hop Tree as a larval host plant.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos with our readers.
Letter 86 – Two-Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar
Subject: id this catepiller
Location: central AZ
October 13, 2016 10:28 am
found on an ash tree in central AZ at 5200′
Signature: ??with love??
This is one of the Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillars, and there are several different species with similar looking caterpillars found in Arizona. Since you were able to provide the food plant, the ash tree, we have determined that this is a Two-Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio multicaudata, and we verified the food plant on Butterflies and Moths of North America.
Letter 87 – Two Tailed Swallowtails Emerge
Awaiting Papilio rutulus or Papilio multicaudata?)
Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 3:42 PM
After a refreshing 10 month nap…the swallowtails have emerged. It looks like they are Two-Tailed: you were so right. The tell-tale (tail 🙂 ) sign was the _/*thinly*/_ ringed blue/green spot inside the yellow eye spots…the Western looks almost the same but the ring is thicker. Thanks again…and, no, we still can’t tell the boy butterflies from the girls.
(ed. note: We believe this would be from Montana)
Thanks so much for sending us the photos of your newly emerged Two Tailed Swallowtails. We will be posting them today as their own posting as well as an update to the caterpillar photos you sent in April.
Letter 88 – Two Caterpillars
I have a couple specials for you to add to your archives. I seem to be getting better at my photos. The unknown bug was
found in a drift fence array in West Texas, and none of the researchers could figure out what it was. Can you?!
The Green Sphinx Caterpillar is probably a member of the genus Eumorpha, formerly Pholus. Notice how the head is retracted into the thoracic portion of the body as well as the absence of a caudal horn. We entertain the possibility that it most resembles Eumorpha pandorus in its green form, but the abdominal spots do not appear to be ringed in black in your photo. This is a caterpillar that comes in both a brown and green form. We love your photo of a Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar, Battus philenor. Most photos online show black caterpillars with red fleshy spines. We might be wrong, but we believe there is a red form as well. Your photos really are great.
Letter 89 – Unidentified Indian Swallowtail
I am here in the Northern Part of India, and would like you to help me out to identify this butterfly, Please Thanks
This is some species of Swallowtail in the genun Papilio, but we do not know the species.
Letter 90 – Common Mime Caterpillar from India
Subject: pink dotted caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: goa india
Time: 10:01 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: HI
my friend noticed this caterpillar.
here’s the photo i took . quite attractive colours.
I suppose it is a stage of a moth or butterfly
can you know what type moth or butterfly it turns into?
How you want your letter signed: Carlos
This caterpillar is quite colorful, but alas, we have not had any luck with an identification. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck.
Update: June 11, 2019
Thanks to a comment from Karl, we now know that this is a Common Mime Caterpillar, Chilasa [Papilio] clytia. According to Butterflies of Singapore: “Across the range where this species occurs, the early stages feed on leaves of serveral plants in the Lauraceae family. The sole recorded local host plant, Cinnamomum iners (Common name: Clover Cinnamon, Wild Cinnamon), is a very common plant all over Singapore, readily found in nature reserves, gardens, parks and wastelands etc. It is a small to medium-sized tree with 3-nerved leaves. Eggs and early stages of the Common Mime are typically found on saplings at heights from knee to waist level.”
Letter 91 – Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars and Imago in Costa Rica
Caterpillars from Costa Rica
Location: about 30 km north of San Ramon at a rural area with an elevation of 700m
March 28, 2011 8:24 pm
These guys were growing on a citrus tree leaf (pic 1). They changed their appearance quit dramatically after a few days (pic 2), and then left the leaf and disappeared.
We don’t recognize your caterpillars and we plan to try to begin researching this tomorrow. We are contacting Keith Wolfe to see if he recognizes this species. Thanks for sending two different instar photos. We believe they are Brush Footed Butterfly Caterpillars in the family Nymphalidae.
Hi Hagit and Daniel,
As earlier from Mexico . . .
. . . these Costa Rican caterpillars are Papilio anchisiades (or a very close relative). This abundant and widespread swallowtail is commonly found in areas disturbed by human activities.
Thank you Keith,
These butterflies are indeed abundant and widespread where I shot the pictures. A place which is sadly very much disturbed by human activities.
Thanks for sending us your beautiful photo of the adult Ruby Spotted Swallowtail to accompany the caterpillar images you sent earlier.
Letter 92 – South African Swallowtail is Black Swordtail
I stumbled across your website last week and I love it! Well done for creating such a website – I spent most of my weekend going through your archives. I am so happy to see that there are many other bug lovers out there!
I am going to send you a collection of bug photos that I have taken over the years – I love bugs, but I don’t know enough about them to identify them so here are some bugs for you from South Africa to identify J. I’ll send them to you separately: 3.Butterfly A pretty butterly I photo graphed in Hluhluwe (South Africa) Cheers,
Once again, we can get very general, but not specific. This is a Swallowtail Butterfly. Many, but not all Swallowtail Butterflies are in the genus Papilio. Your other 10 requests might have to wait a bit.
Update: March 4, 2016
We just received a comment that this is a Black Swordtail, Graphium colonna, and once we researched that on iSpot, we agree.
Letter 93 – Unknown Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar from Guatemala is identified
What kind of animal is this?
I would like to know if you people know what kind of animal this is. Country: Guatemala. Region: Petén. City: Tikal. Size: 6-7 centimers. We touched the animal with a wooden stick and then it made some attack move or something. His tongue came out like some sort of snake. The movie were it can be seen is over here: http://jasperstevens.nl/mexico/beest.mov Thanks in advance,
This is some species of Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar, probably in the genus Papilio. The tongue you describe is a scent gland known as an osmetrium. We will try to identify the species of this pretty caterpillar.
Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 8:57 PM
Hello again, Daniel.
a few other IDs and correction.
Yes, this wandering prepupa (compare its faded coloration to this caterpillar still feeding on an avocado leaf: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missingchandra/76362584/ ) will soon metamorphose into one of the 11 or so butterflies in the ” Pyrrhosticta ” group of Papilio swallowtails — P. cleotas ,P. garamas ,P. victorinus , etc.
I hope the above information is helpful.
Letter 94 – Unknown Swallowtail Caterpillar from India
Subject: What’s this caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: New Delhi, India
Time: 01:03 AM EDT
Hi we found this caterpillar on a pole in our society. This is October so the weather is slowly turning cool. My daughter is very keen on watching its metamorphosis. But we really need to know what to feed it. Otherwise we will put it back in the garden. So need a quick reply. Many thanks.
How you want your letter signed —
We believe this is the caterpillar of a butterfly in the family Papilionidae, many of which are known as Swallowtails, but we cannot provide anything more specific at this time. The Butterflies of India site has images of many butterflies from the family.
Letter 95 – Unknown Swallowtail Caterpillar: probably Orchard Swallowtail
HI. Just found this on my lemonade tree, another has the red “feelers” out of sight, or retracted, would love to know what it is. Thank you,
We can say with near certainty that you did not photograph this Swallowtail Caterpillar in the continental U.S. That said, we have no idea what species it is or where you photographed it, though that is information you could have easily supplied to us. Swallowtails are large showy butterflies, often with tails on the hind wings. Most of the caterpillars have a forked scent gland near the head known as the osmeterium. It is normally concealed, but when the caterpillar is disturbed, it emits an odor from this scent gland. We only wish we knew what exotic country you took the photo. It sure is a pretty specimen.
Update: (01/21/2007) swallowtail ID
I saw the gorgeous image you guys posted recently of a swallowtail larva from an undisclosed country. It looked sort of like an orange dog, Papilio cresphontes, only it had green and a lot of spines, and a bright red osmeterium. I did some googling, and I think it’s the Orchard Swallowtail, Papilio aegeus. They are found in Australia! Here’s a couple of links to sites I found. http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_butters/Orch_butt.htm
Thanks for the update Bobby, We also noticed the resemblance to the Orange Dog in the osmeterium, but we didn’t have the time to do further research without a country. Australia was an obvious choice at this time of year. Thanks again.
Letter 96 – Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillars from Israel
Subject: Judean Swallowtails
Location: Judean Desert, Israel
March 22, 2015 1:49 am
On my hiking trip last week in the Judean Desert, I noticed a bunch of these colorful caterpillars on one specific bush. Didn’t see them anywhere else in the area.
Some research identified them as common yellow swallowtails, Papilio machaon.
Signature: Ben from Israel
It is nice to hear from you again. Papilio machaon is also found in North America where it is called the Old World Swallowtail, even though BugGuide notes that it is: “Holarctic, with a very wide distribution in boreal and temperate Eurasia and in western North America.” Because of the wide range with different climactic conditions and food plants across the range, BugGuide indicates: “The various subspecies included here under the name Papilio machaon have been (and contunue to be) treated differently by different authors. The most commonly seen alternate classification would have the subspecies bairdii, dodi, oregonius, and pikei placed as subspecies of a distinct species Papilio bairdii, and the more boreal subspecies would be left under the species Papilio machaon. There are good reasons for doing this, but the majority of workers currently place them all under one species. There are also still some people who would prefer to see each name treated individually at species ranking, though this is not widely accepted practice. The result is that these butterflies may be listed under a number of different name combinations, depending upon the preferences of the individual author.” From the Grapevine has a page of Israel’s Ten Most Beautiful Butterflies that has a lovely image of the Old World Swallowtail. Since food plants tend to differ with the range, do you know the plant upon which these caterpillars were feeding? By the way, please include larger digital files in the future if possible.
I saw the caterpillars on just that one plant, and it wasn’t in flower so identifying it is difficult. However, I believe it to belong to the Resedaceae family, possibly Reseda stenostachya.
I can send larger files if you want, let me know!