Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Papilio cresphontes

Female Giant Swallowtail on Lantana flower

Photo courtesy Cindy and Lane Grissett, August 15, 2009

Giant Swallowtail Underside, Photo courtesy Sandy Hart

The Giant Swallowtail butterfly is very large, with dark brown wings. Yellow spots form rows crossing the wings diagonally and vertically.

Its wingspan is 3 5 - 5.5 inches. The large yellow spots run diagonally from the forewing tips, crossing the hindwing to the body. A second row of yellow spots can be seen near the wing edges. Each tail has a yellow spot. Underside of the hindwing appears light yellow with black markings and a small area of orange and blue.

The preferred habitat of Giant Swallowtail is brushy land near streams, ridge tops, and woodland roads.

Both sexes fly slowly along woodland edges or trails, a few feet above ground. The males engage in puddling. The females flutter wings while laying one egg on a leaf, moving to another part of plant to repeat the process. During this time it is extremely difficult to photograph a female as she is in constant motion.

Diet of this butterfly is milkweed, goldenrod, Japanese honeysuckle, Lantana and morning glory. It is also known to feed on prickly and wafer ash, which probably accounts for its presence in the Escambia region.

Sandy Hart
Photo courtesy Bob Parks

August 17, 2005

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