Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This specimen is the largest, best preserved butterfly I have managed to pin - they are difficult to preserve well because at each step along the way, catching-killing-pinning, there are endless ways to lose scales. Papilionidae is a family containing the subfamilies Parnassiinae and Papilioninae. Papilioninae is characterized by having one or more tail-like prolongations on the rear side of the hind wing (hence the name - swallow tails). Also, the radius in the fore wing is five branched. They tend to be black and yellow, some with striped patterns (zebra swallowtails) and some have red and blue markings as well. This subfamily is generally regarded as being one of the largest and most beautifully colored North American butterflies. The males and females tend to have different colorations, and this subfamily contains the largest butterflies in the world (the giant birdwings of Asia and Australia may reach wingspreads of 255 mm).

Lepidoptera; Papilionoidea; Papilionidae; Papilioninae; Papilio cresphontes
Common Name: Giant Swallowtail, Orangedog

The larvae are smooth-bodied, often have eye spots, and have an eversible scent gland or osmeterium - when the larva is disturbed, it emits a disagreeable odor. The larva forms a chrysalis, and it overwinters in that form, emerging as an adult in the spring. The above species, Papilio cresphontes, is a large, dark-colored butterfly whose larvae feed on citrus in the South and on prickly ash in the North. This specimen was found in San Diego, and is a female - the males have bolder reds and blues on the underside of the hind wings, with a black border. You can see from my hand that the butterfly is pretty large - roughly 4 inches across from wingtip to wingtip.