Swallowtail Caterpillar India: Common Mormon

this creature on my lime tree
Location: india
September 23, 2011 2:55 am
Have found a few of these on my lime tree and i am told they chew up all the leaves. but since i dont know their name, i am unable to address the problem.
please help
Signature: Sukhie

Common Mormon Caterpillar

Dear Sukhie,
This is the caterpillar of a Swallowtail Butterfly, and unless the tree is totally defoliated, which we doubt will happen, the loss of a few leaves to feed this caterpillar is a small sacrifice to be able to enjoy the lovely adults flitting around the garden.  The red structure is a defense organ known as an osmetrium, and in addition to resembling the tongue of a snake, the caterpillar is able to give off a strong scent that dissuades predators.  We did a bit of research and we have learned that your caterpillar is
Papilio demoleus malayanus, and it is commonly called the Lime Butterfly.  We searched the internet and found many photos of the caterpillar, but your photo is probably one of the best.  We are proud to include it on our website.  You can see the entire life cycle of this lovely species on the Butterflies of Singapore website.

Thank you for your prompt reply, have plenty other pictures of this caterpillar as well. Have removed the from my young trees and placed them elsewhere. Love them butterflies.

Make sure you place them on lime or other citrus if you want them to survive.

Correction Courtesy of Keith Wolfe
Hello Daniel and Sukhie,
Knowing that your time to do Internet searches is very limited, Daniel, please allow me to correct the caterpillar ID to that of the COMMON MORMON (Papilio polytes).  I’ve seen hundreds of Lime Butterfly and Common Mormon larvae all across Asia, the two being easily separable by a coffee-colored band between the “eyes” (Lime Butterfly) and prominent blue spots on the head and body (Common Mormon).  FYI on a simple comparative Word doc that I posted several years ago on an Indian forum — http://groups.google.com/group/butterfly_india/msg/405238f507d08e91.
Best wishes,


2 thoughts on “Swallowtail Caterpillar India: Common Mormon”

  1. Hi,

    I have a grapefruit tree and I am having these caterpillars attack the young plant relentlessly. Now, i dont mind them eating a few leaves and making the garden colourful with butterflies but the young plant is dying because of these caterpillars. Kindly do tell me how to avoid them (for the time being, so that the tree can grow.) currently I am going organic and spraying neem oil on the plant to dissuade any caterpillars. would love to know if any specific action can be taken to save the tree.

    P.S: I have a couple of picture of this that are of good quality so if anyone is looking for any collection. Do mail me. would be glad to give it away.


Leave a Comment