Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
Tribe - PAPILIONINI
© Chris Orpin
Papilionidae is comprised of about 600 known species. They are found
throughout the world in almost every environment including deserts,
mountains, grasslands, tropical rainforests, temperate woodlands,
meadows, marshes and coastal dunes.
are 3 subfamilies. The Parnassiinae consists of about 50 species.
They are known as Apollos and breed mainly in mountainous areas of
the northern hemisphere. The Papilioninae comprises of about 550
species distributed across the world, and includes the Swallowtails
and Dragontails, and the giant Birdwings of south-east Asia. The
other subfamily Baroniinae consists of a single species
Baronia brevicornis which is endemic to
the mountains of western Mexico.
Heraclides comprises of 28 species, and
is the neotropical 'sister' genus of the Holarctic
Papilio, to which the European
Swallowtail Papilio machaon, and the
North American Black Swallowtail Papilio
polyxenes belong. Some of the
Heraclides species are marked with cream spots and bands, and
have obvious affinities with their Holarctic counterparts. Others
including anchisiades and
isodorus are black with pink patches on
the hindwings and are superficially similar to
Parides and Eurytides.
Heraclides cresphontes is extremely
similar in appearance to H. thoas, -
the 2 species can only be distinguished by close examination of the
abdominal tip. Their distribution differs, with
thoas being distributed from
Mexico to Bolivia and Argentina ( and as a rare stray in the
southern USA ); while H. cresphontes
has a more northerly distribution being found from Canada to
species is found in many different habitats including deciduous
forest, flowery meadows and suburban gardens.
egg is orange-brown and globular. It is laid singly on the upperside
of leaves of Zanthoxylum,
Ptelea, Helietta and other
Rutaceae. For most of its life the larva is olive-brown in colour,
marked with blotches of yellowish-white, and has a slimy appearance.
It rests in a prominent position on the upper surface of a leaf, and
strongly resembles a bird-dropping. If molested the larva everts a
pair of fleshy orange tentacle-like organs from behind its head.
This 'osmaterium' is waved aggressively, exuding airborne chemicals
to deter attacks from insects or reptiles. In the final instar the
larva changes it's appearance, and rests on twigs instead of on
leaves. Its final skin is marbled in shades of dark and light grey,
and has a matt texture disguising it as a bit of lichen covered
twig. The pupa is similarly coloured, and is formed on a twig of the
sexes commonly visit flowers, favouring Carduus,
Cirsium and Lantana.
When nectaring at flowers the forewings are constantly fluttered - a
feature common to most Papilioninae wherever in the world they occur.