Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Family Papilionidae - Swallowtails, Parnassians

caterpillar on ash - Papilio glaucus pipevine swallowtail caterpillar - Battus philenor Caterpillar - Papilio polyxenes What kind of caterpillar is this? - Papilio glaucus Intermediate instar, Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar - Papilio troilus Western Tiger Swallowtail Larva 1st-3rd Instar - Papilio rutulus Black Swallowtail caterpillar - Papilio polyxenes Papilio zelicaon
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Papilionidae (Swallowtails, Parnassians)
Numbers
about 33 species in 5 genera for North America, including eight tropical strays (1)
about 560 spp. worldwide (2)
Identification
Large, striking butterflies with hind wings usually displaying characteristic elongated tails. These are believed to mimic antennae, distracting predators from more crucial body parts. It is not uncommon to see swallowtail butterflies with one or both tails missing, probably for this reason. However, there are a few species, for instance in genus Parides, that have no significant tails, and some that have more than one per wing.

Eggs are globular. Larvae have antennae-like structures called osmeteria behind the head that they can extrude, at the same time emitting pungent chemicals, to deter predators. Pupae (chrysalides) are usually green or brown and are attached by a knob of silk at one end and a thin silken girdle around the middle. All North American species overwinter as pupae.(2)
Food
Adults feed on flower nectar. Caterpillars feed on a variety of woody and herbaceous plants, depending on the species.
Print References
Opler and Malikul, Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies (2)
Internet References
Tree of Life--Papilionidae
Works Cited
1.Nearctica: Nomina Insecta Nearctica
2.A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides)
Paul A. Opler, Vichai Malikul, Roger Tory Peterson. 1992. Houghton Mifflin Company.