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Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 1/17/2014; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Giant Swallowtail Butterfly  
Picture of Giant-Swallowtail-Butterfly

The huge Giant Swallowtail is a large North American butterfly that never fails to make an impression.

This is the largest species of butterfly in North America. The Giant Swallowtail is immense for butterflies. Seeing one can be quite an event to remember. They can be found in flower gardens, at the edges of forests and citrus groves. They are great pollinators and, for that reason, are beneficial to have in the garden.

The caterpillar is orange, black, white and brown and has been called an "orange dog". It could easily be mistaken as bird droppings on a leaf. They tend to enjoy eating the leaves of citrus trees like oranges and lemons. Because of that, citrus farmers consider them a pest.

In warmer, southern areas, many generations can exist in one year. They are active year-round, but less likely to be seen in the middle of winter. They fly at heights close to human heads and higher as opposed to low to the ground.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Information

Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common Name: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Scientific Name: Papilio cresphontes

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Lepidoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Papilionidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Papilio
       Arrow graphic Species: cresphontes

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 86 mm to 140 mm (3.354 inches to 5.46 inches)
Identifying Colors: black; yellow; orange; blue
Additional Descriptors: flying, tails, helpful

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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