Giant Blue Swallowtail (Papilio zalmoxis)
The Giant Blue Swallowtail is a species of African butterflies that are known for their large size and enchanting coloration. The larva of the butterfly is called the ‘orangedog’, and is considered a pest because of its affinity towards citrus plants.
Description and Identification
The mature larva has a thick body, alternating in white and light brown. The juncture of the two colors has zigzag or wave-like patterns. There is also a pair of bright orange antennae atop the head.
The chrysalis is light brown with uneven, rough marks and haphazard patterns all over. They hang with the help of one single silk thread from the branch of the host plant.
Sexual Dimorphism: Moderately present
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the forewings in the male show a cyan blue coloration, with the tip of the wing and the venation being black. The hind wings are also cyan with a chain of blue spots, while the edges have a wavy pattern with dark coloration. In the female, the cyan is replaced by grayish white. When the wings are closed, the ventral surface of the forewings show a white hue, with the tip of the wing and the veins being brown, whereas the hind wings are red-brown with the edges being dark-brown, and the middle part having a white area. They also have chain-like patterns made of white spots. The veins in these wings are dark-brown. The underside of the female is the same as the male.
Average wingspan: 12–16 cm (4.7–6.3 in)
Flight pattern: Slow and erratic
Round and whitish in color, and laid one at a time on host plant leaves
|Distribution||Common in Africa’s Nigeria, Gabon, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Zaire, Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo|
|Habitat||Tropical forests and woodlands, open lands, and forest edges|
|Lifespan of adults||About 6-14 days|
|Host plants||Mostly the leaves of the sweet orange plant, but also the native members of the citrus family|
|Adult diet||Flower nectar|
Did You Know?
- They are one of the very few butterfly species with the females being smaller than their male counterparts.
- The get their specific name ‘Zalmoxis’ in honor of a divinity of the Getae people (with the same name) that lived in the lower Danube region.