Eastern Giant Swallowtail

Papilio cresphontes

Summary 5

The Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) has a wingspan of about 10–16 cm (3.9–6.3 in) making it the largest butterfly in North America.

Description 6

An adult's wingspan is about 100–160 mm (3.9–6.3 in).[2] The abdomen and wings are dark brown to black with yellow bands. There is a yellow "eye" in each wing tail (Fig. 1). The abdomen is yellow laterally (Fig. 2). Underside of wings consists mostly of large yellow spots of various sizes and yellow basally. On the hind wing there is a black medial band consisting of distal blue lunules and two red spots.
The mature larva resembles bird droppings to deter predators, and if that doesn't work they use their orange osmeteria. These are 'horns' which they can display and then retract. The coloration is dingy brown and or olive with white patches and small patches of purple (Fig. 4).

Larva Description 7

The mature caterpillar resembles bird droppings to deter predators, and if that doesn't work they use their orange osmeteria.These are 'horns' which they can display and then retract. The coloration is dingy brown and or olive with white patches and small patches of purple. Citrus fruit farmers often call the caterpillars orange dogs or orange puppies because of the devastation they can cause to their crops.

Larval host plants 6

The larva is the well-known “orangedog” and is considered a minor pest of sweet orange, (Citrus × sinensis (L.)) Osbeck (pro sp.) [maxima × reticulata ] . Host plants of the larvae, besides sweet orange, include native members of the citrus family (Rutaceae), including northern pricklyash (Zanthoxylum americanum Mill.), Hercules-club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis L.), lime pricklyash (Zanthoxylum fagara (L.) Sarg.), hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata L.), sea torchwood (Amyris elemifera L.), Mexican orange (Choisya dumosa [Torr.] A. Gray), and a variety of exotic Rutaceae, including gasplant (Dictamnus albus L.) and white sapote (Casimiroa edulis Llave & Lex.). (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN13400.pdf)

GTM Occurrence 6

The Giant Swallowtail is considered rare at the GTM. It has most commonly been observed in the open along Transect A and along the Red Bay Walk (Transect D).

The Giant Swallowtail records are from April-June and September. They were frequently observed during late June early July in the Wildlife Management Area of GTM. The records from the FBMN survey my not reflect the true abundance of the Giant Swallowtail in the GTM. During the "4th of July" butterfly count on the afternoon of June 22, 2015 observations in the Wildlife Management Area of the GTM were quite common. There have been 8 specimens observed along the Transects as of December 28, 2015.

Distribution 6

Papilio cresphontes is mainly an eastern species that ranges from southern Ontario south to Florida and east to the Mid-West. In the south it occurs to Texas, Arizona, and California. Its range extends to Mexico, Central America, Jamaica, Cuba, and Colombia.

Habitat 8

The Giant Swallowtail is found in a wide variety of natural and disturbed open habitats, including parks, suburbs, and citrus groves, as well as more natural areas (Cech and Tudor 2005). In the northern U.S., it is most often associated with rocky and sandy exposed hillsides near streams or gullies; in the southern U.S., it is often associated with pine flatwoods, towns, and citrus groves (Opler 1992).

Nature serve conservation status 9

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Declining in part of the eastern United States but overall a common species in core of range.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Brian Peterson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), http://www.flickr.com/photos/92824172@N00/485711175
  2. (c) Henry T. McLin, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmclin/14898875801/
  3. (c) Adam Skowronski, some rights reserved (CC BY-ND), https://www.flickr.com/photos/adam_skowronski/9835997466/
  4. (c) Mary Keim, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), https://www.flickr.com/photos/38514062@N03/14455199975/
  5. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclides_cresphontes
  6. (c) GTMResearchReserve, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
  7. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_cresphontes
  8. (c) Shapiro, Leo, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://eol.org/data_objects/11289421
  9. (c) NatureServe, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://eol.org/data_objects/28748606

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