Mexico, USA & Canada
King Page Swallowtail
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
Tribe - PAPILIONINI
© 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
isodorus are black with pink patches on
the hindwings and are superficially similar to
Parides and Eurytides.
Heraclides thoas is extremely similar in appearance to
H. cresphontes, - 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 Venezuela.
This species is found in
many different habitats including rainforest, cloudforest, deciduous
forest, orchards and suburban zones at altitudes between 0-1200m.
© Adrian Hoskins
The egg is chestnut
coloured, globular and smooth in texture. It is laid singly on the
leaves or stems of Piper ( Piperaceae )
growing along forest edges, roadsides and riverbanks. The larva
resembles a bird dropping. Like all Papilionid larvae it is equipped
with an extrusible forked appendage called an osmaterium which is
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.
Heraclides thoas, half-grown larva
are frequently seen on river beaches, dry river beds, damp sunny
tracks and other places where they can imbibe mineralised moisture.
Sometimes they are seen singly, but more often in small group of about
4-6 amidst aggregations of Pierids such as
Phoebis, Aphrissa &
sexes commonly visit flowers, showing a particular preference for
Lantana. When feeding at flowers the
forewings are constantly fluttered - a feature common to most
Papilioninae wherever in the world they occur.
Copulation probably occurs in late afternoon - at Rio Frio in
Venezuela I observed a copulating pair of thoas,
settled with wings outspread on the foliage of a large-leaved bush
just before dusk. On the same leaf were 3 other
thoas, all with wings outspread and overlapping those of their