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Anise Swallowtail(Papilio zelicaon)

Anise Swallowtail

The Anise Swallowtail is a species of North American ‘swallowtail’ type of butterfly that is known for its bright yellow/beige coloration, matched with the patterned wings. They are abundantly found throughout their geographic range and have been marked as Secure (‘G5’) by NatureServe.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Scientific Name: Papilio zelicaon

Description and Identification


Anise Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar

The larva has five instars. When completely matured, it is mostly green, with black, orange, and light blue markings. The insect feeds on the leaves of its host plant. If disturbed, they would emit a foul-smelling, orange fluid as a tactic for defense. It can grow up to 5 cm in length.


Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis

The Chrysalis is light brown to green, and hangs from a branch or stem of its host, resembling yet another small branch protruding out of the stem. The pupa is held to the branch of the host plant using durable silk.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: No noticeable differences.

Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal surface forewing is primarily yellow having black bands along the edges, similar to the hind wings. The secondary wings display yellowish orange to red eyespots close to the tails, with a black pupil in each eye. The anal cell of the secondary wing is predominantly yellow. When the wings are closed, both wings look almost identical on the ventral side, except that the colors and patterns are a bit faint.

Anise Swallowtail Butterfly


Papilio zelicaon

Average wingspan: 52 to 80 mm (2.0 to 3.1 in)

Flight pattern: Slow, yet erratic


Anise Swallowtail Eggs static1.1.sqspcdn.com

Small, round and yellow in color, laid one at a time

Quick Facts

Distribution Entire western parts of North America
Habitat Bare hills and mountains, humanmade gardens, vacant fields and lots, as well as roadsides
Lifespan of adults 6 to 14 days
Host plants Plants from the carrot, Apiaceae, parsley and citrus families
Adult diet Not known

Did You Know?

  • The butterfly is very often mistaken for another species, the tiger swallowtail. The primary difference, however, is that, the ‘anise’ is smaller in size than the other one. Also, the ‘tiger’ has the vertical black striping patterns, unlike the ‘anise’.

Anise Swallowtail Female

Anise Swallowtail Male

Anise Swallowtail Range Map gardenswithwings.com

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