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Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Giant Swallowtail

The Giant Swallowtail butterfly indigenous to different parts of North America is said to be the largest butterfly of this continent. The caterpillars of this species are strikingly famous for camouflaging to escape from their predators by resembling bird droppings.

Scientific Classification

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


Description and Identification


Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Larvae

The five larval instars are about two inches long with a black and brown body with a saddle pattern, similar to that of a bird dropping that helps them in fighting against preys.


Giant Swallowtail Cocoon
Giant Swallowtail Chrysalis

They have a brown body with a mottled or spotted appearance.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

Color and Appearance: When the wings are opened they are black with yellow horizontal line running across its forewings. When the wings are closed patches of red and blue bands are displayed alongside the black and yellow coloration. The yellow bands in females are of a thinner texture while there is also a black spot on the yellow oval band that is located at the third position form the tip of its wing. The oval in the males lack the black spot and their yellow band is thicker.

Papilio Cresphontes
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Average Wingspan: Males: 15-19 cm(5.8-7.4 in) Females: 14-18 cm (5.5-6.9 in)

Flight Pattern: Fast and agile, due to their large wingspan they are strong in flight, covering long distances with just a few flaps of their wings.


Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Eggs

They are small in size, with a brown appearance, but may have an orangish tinge due to a secretion of this color.

Quick Facts

Distribution Several parts of North America, extending down south to Venezuela, New England and Colombia, as well as Cuba and Jamaica
Habitat Deciduous forests, citrus orchards, wooded areas and fields
Lifespan of Adults Approximately 6-14 days
Host plants Sweet orange (Citrus × sinensis) mostly for the larva, alongside other citrus family members like the lime pricklyash(Zanthoxylum fagara), northernn pricklyash (Zanthoxylum americanum Mill), and sea touchwood (Amyris elemifera)
Adult diet Nectar of plants like bougainvilla, lantana, solidago, and lonicera japonica

Did You Know

  • They are known as orange puppy or orange dog since these species consume the orange tree’s leaves, being a potential threat to citrus farms.
The Giant Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail Range Map
Giant Swallowtail Host Plant
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Life Cycle
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Images
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Habitat

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Scientific Name: Papilio cresphontes
Published by Avatar on June 21, 2019.
Last Updated: December 19, 2022. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team