The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) is a swallowtail butterfly common in various parts of North America, particularly the south and east. With a wingspan of about 1016 centimetres (3.96.3 in), it is the largest butterfly in North America. Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Nomenclature
Giant swallowtail, Orange dog, Orange puppy Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Description
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Adult
An adults wingspan is about 4-5.5in (100-140mm). The body and wings are dark brown to black with yellow bands. There is a yellow “eye” in each wing tail. The abdomen has bands of yellow along with the previously mentioned brown. Adults are quite similar to the adults of another Papilio species, P. thoas. Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar
P. cresphontes caterpillar on lemon leaf
P. cresphontes caterpillar showing defensive posture
The mature caterpillar resembles bird droppings to deter predators, if that doesn’t work they use their red osmeterium. Older instars take on the appearance of a small snake with a fake head and eyes. The coloration is dingy brown and or olive with white patches and small patches of purple. Fruit farmers often call the caterpillars orange dogs or orange puppies because of the devastation they can cause on their crops.
Nectar plants: Pentanthera, Bougainvilla, Solidago, Lonicera japonica, Asclepias
Larval foods: Ornamental Citrus, Burseraceae, Zanthoxylum fagara, Ptelea trifoliata, Other Citrus
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Range and habitat
P. cresphontes is mostly seen in deciduous forest and citrus orchards where they are considered major pest. They fly between May and August where there are 2 broods in the North and 3 in the south. They can range from southern California, Arizona as deep south as Mexico north into southeastern Canada. Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Life cycle
Adult females lay their eggs singly on the surface of the host plant, this egg is bright orange and darken with time. The caterpillars then eat and grow to about 2 inches before changing into a chrysalis. The chrysalis stage is variable but usually takes approximately 10-12 days, although in the fall they may stay in the chrysalis stage over winter and emerge in the spring.
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Nectar Sources:
Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar Host Plants:
Burseraceae (frankincense/myrrh/incense tree
Lime Prickly-ash, Wild Lime, Colima, Una de Gato, Corriosa “Cursed Tree”
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
: Rhododendron, Bougainvillea, Goldenrod, Japanese Honeysuckle, Milkweed.
Host Plants: Citrus, Burseraceae (frankincense/myrrh/incense tree, Lime Prickly-ash, Wild Lime, Colima, Una de Gato, Corriosa “Cursed Tree”, Hoptree.
Region 8: Florida.