Great Mormon (Papilio memnon)
The Great Mormon is a species of large black butterflies belonging to the ‘swallowtail’ family. It is distributed widely in thirteen subspecies in different countries of South and Southeast Asia. The butterflies are also known to mud-puddle. The male Mormons are much more common than the females.
Description and Identification
The mature larva is green to yellowish green, with three outward to inward white marks from the middle to the end of the body with a pattern that bears a very strong resemblance to the host plant leaves. The head part bear two large, black eye-marks to scare away predators.
The chrysalis is bright green as well, and divided into segments, giving it a leaf-like look. It stays hung from the branch of the host plant with a silken thread.
Sexual Dimorphism: Distinctly present
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal side of the males display a deep blue to black coloration, and may or may not bear the red streaks at the base of the cell on the forewings. The females’ forewings have sepia as the ground color with streaks in greyish white. The third part of the cell at the base is red, with an outward touch of white. The upper part of the hindwing is bluish black with five to seven white to yellow disc-like patches. When the wings are closed, both wing bases show a red coloration with the hind wings having a red tornal patch, each. The above are the most common and typical forms of the sexes known as ‘agenor’. However, this species has four male and many female forms (including butlerianus, alcanor, and polymnestoroides), with at least twenty-six female forms being reported.
Average wingspan: 120 to 150 mm (4.7 to 5.9 in)
Flight pattern: Slow, yet erratic
Yellowish white in color, and laid singly, one at a time on the host plant leaves
|Distribution||Almost all over southern and southeastern Asia, including India’s West Bengal, north-eastern India, Nicobar Islands, Andaman Islands, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, parts of China, and Thailand|
|Habitat||Forest edges and clearings, human habitats|
|Host plants||Primarily Citrus species, particularly pomelo|
|Adult diet||Flower nectar especially from poinsettia, jasminum, lantana, canna, and salvia|
Did You Know?
- Because of its polymorphy and Batesian mimicry, the butterfly has been studied extensively in for understanding the genetic basis of these occurrences.
- This species can fly up to 6,900 feet (2,100 m) in the Himalayas.