Polydamas Swallowtail (Battus polydamas)
The Polydamas Swallowtail is a species of butterflies that belong to the common ‘swallowtail’ group. These black butterflies are widely spread in 21 local subspecies across their geographic range. They are commonly seen between April and November.
- Family: Papilionidae
- Genus: Battus
- Common names: Gold rim swallowtail, tailless swallowtail
- Scientific Name: Battus polydamas
Description and Identification
The mature larvae are approximately 5.3 cm (2.1 in) in length. They vary in color – starting from dark brown with orange tubercles having black tips to light tan ones that have pale tubercles. The lighter versions are relatively rare. Their cuticles have a pattern of darker lines, which might not be easily visible in specimens having a dark coloration. They consume their egg shells soon after they emerge from them. With their four instars, this stage lasts for 19-24 days.
Interestingly, the chrysalis can have two colors that are predominant in plant species – brown and green – the colors of the dead and new leaves, respectively. The patterns on their bodies also resemble the venation found in leaves. This is mainly for camouflaging purpose. On an average, this stage lasts for about 18 days.
Sexual Dimorphism: Not visibly present
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal side shows a black base color with submarginal bands and marginal spots, both in light yellow. When the wings are closed, the ventral side also shows a black base with a row of submarginal yellow spots on the primary wings and a single row of sub-marginal wavy lines in red, while the secondary wings show a row of marginal yellow spots. Both the male and the larger female display the same pattern.
Average wingspan: 9.2 – 11.6 cm (approx. 3.6 – 4.6 in)
Flight pattern: Slow to moderate
Yellow to orange in color with about 1 mm in diameter, laid in clusters of about 10 to 14 in each on the exposed newly developed stems or the growing tips of vines
|Distribution/Range||South of Texas, peninsular Florida south to Argentina, northern parts of Kentucky and Missouri|
|Habitat||Open woods, abandoned fields, disturbed areas|
|Lifespan of adults||Maximum of two weeks|
|Host plants||Pipevines (Aristolochia species)|
|Adult diet||Nectar from flowers primarily of the lantana species, but also seen feeding on honeysuckle and soapweed|
Did You Know?
- Unlike the other members of the ‘swallowtail’ group, they lack the characteristic tails at the base of the secondary wings, for which they get the name ‘tailless swallowtail’.