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Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes)


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

 Updated: 12/18/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The grand 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 enormous when it comes to butterflies. Seeing one may just be something to remember for a lifetime. Wingspans can be as wide as 19 cm (almost 7.5 inches). The top (dorsal) side of the butterfly is mostly black. A bright yellow bar stretches from across the forewings, tip to tip. A second diagonal band on each wing crosses it. This striking pattern is visible when the wings are resting flat. The color under the wings is primarily yellow. A black band crossed the center of the wing, and it is studded with light blue crescents. A rusty red patch sits in the center of the wing. An orange and blue eyespot sits at the inner edge of each hindwing. Like all Swallowtails, the Giant Swallowtail has an extension, or tail, at the bottom edge of each hindwing. It is black with a small yellow oval at the tip.

Adults drink flower nectar from a variety of plants. Milkweed, honeysuckle, azaleas, and lantana are popular places to find them. Comfortable in both developed and undeveloped areas, they can be found in residential flower gardens, managed citrus groves, and at the edges of forests. They are great pollinators and, for that reason, are very beneficial to have in the garden.

Orange spherical eggs are laid on study parts of a host plant. 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. A red osmeterium at the head resembles a forked tongue or antennae. This has a pungent odor that wards off would-be predators. They tend to enjoy eating the leaves of citrus trees like oranges and lemons, and are common in Florida. 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.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Papilionidae
          Genus: Papilio
            Species: cresphontes
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Papilio cresphontes
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 86mm to 140mm (3.35in to 5.46in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow; orange; blue
Descriptors: flying, tails, helpful
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
State of Alabama graphic
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State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
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State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
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State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
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Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
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
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: 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 as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.