Explanation of Names
Papilio multicaudata W. F. Kirby, 1884
multicaudata (L). "many-tailed"
Wing span: 3 1/2 - 5 inches (9 - 12.7 cm) - BAMONA
Upper surface of male forewing with narrow black stripes. Each hindwing has 2 tails.(1) If abdomen is visible, male claspers are obvious as a yellow segment at the tip, beyond the black stripe (see below).
Females often have broader black stripes, and more blue on the upperside (see below).
Caterpillars resemble those of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
w NA (CA-TX-ND-BC) / Mex. - Map
Foothill slopes and canyons, moist valleys, streamsides, woodlands, parks, roadsides, suburbs, and cities. - BAMONA
Caterpillar hosts: Leaves of ash (Fraxinus
), hop tree (Ptelea trifoliata
), and chokecherry (Prunus
Adult food: Nectar from thistles, milkweeds, California buckeye, lilac, and many others. - BAMONA
Males patrol stream courses or city streets for receptive females. Eggs are laid singly on leaves of host plant. Caterpillars eat leaves and rest on silken mats in shelters of curled leaves. Chrysalids hibernate.(1)
Trivia: This is probably the largest species of Butterfly in North America, with spread specimens sometimes pushing 6 inches in wingspan. However, the Giant Swallowtail - Papilio cresphontes (which definitely averages smaller) is consistently listed as the largest species, and indeed some females of that species can reach very large proportions as well. Occasionally nearly as large is also the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio glaucus. So, on an average, everyday basis, P. multicaudatus is largest, but as for the largest specimen recorded, it is probably an open contest. [note added September 22, 2013 by David J. Ferguson]