Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
Tribe - PAPILIONINI
Heraclides torquatus ( or possibly
garleppi ), male, Madre de Dios, Peru
© Adrian Hoskins
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 the female of
torquatus are black with pink patches
on the hindwings and are Batesian mimics of
males of Heraclides torquatus and
garleppi are virtually identical in
appearance. In both species there is geographic variation regarding
the size and shape of the apical cream markings, and of the pink,
cream and blue-grey spots in the outer area of the underside
Heraclides torquatus and
both occur throughout the Upper Amazonian region
but the range of torquatus extends
north as far as Mexico and southward to northern Argentina.
This species occurs primarily in wet lowland rainforest areas, but
is strongly migratory and can thus be found in a wide variety of
forested and open habitats at altitudes up to about 700m.
The egg is
globular and greenish-yellow in colour. It is laid singly on the
leaves of Citrus bushes.
The fully grown larva is
mottled in dull tones of brown, greenish-yellow and whitish, with a
double row of tubercles along the back. It rests on the upper
surface of leaves with its body arched, and resembles a bird
dropping. Like all Papilionid larvae it possesses
an extrusible forked organ called an osmaterium, situated behind the
head. This is everted if the larva is molested, and gives off a
noxious pheromone containing isobutyric acid which is used as a
defence against ants.
The chrysalis is dark
brown, marbled with green so as to resemble a piece of
The butterflies are highly
seasonal, the main flight period coinciding with the mid-late dry
Males migrate along river courses,
and are commonly seen in groups of 10-20, imbibing dissolved minerals
from urine-soaked sand. Lesser numbers can be seen within the forest
at peccary wallows, seepages and around the edges of small lagoons,
where mineral salts become concentrated as the pools dry out at the
end of the dry season. In common with other
Heraclides and Papilio species the
adults flutter their wings constantly when mud-puddling. They are of
nervous disposition, such that any disturbance causes the whole group
to take immediately to flight.
females are seen much less frequently, usually when flying in light
gaps within the forest. They can be confused in flight with females of
Parides sesostris, but when settled the
tails and twin row of pink spots on the underside hindwings of
torquatus can easily be seen.