ANIMAL: Eastern Giant Swallowtail Papilio cresphontes Type of Animal: Swallowtail Butterfly Habitat: Woodlands, gardens, general landscape plantings, citrus orchards, citrus groves, deciduous forest, fields, parks, suburbs, rocky/sandy exposed hillsides near streams/gullies, towns, cities, bogs, marshes, swamps, pine flats Location(s): E North America w to Rocky Mountains Appearance: One of largest butterflies in North America, black wings w/ horizontal yellow line across forewings & diagonal yellow line across hindwing, wing undersides yellow w/ black accents, small red patch on ventral wing. Caterpillars resemble bird/lizard poop-brownish w/ orange tinge. Older caterpillars resemble tiny snakes. Younger caterpillars have hair-like setae while older caterpillars don’t. Food/Diet: Adults eat nectar from milkweed, Lantana, butterfly bush, Zinnia, azalea, bougainvillea, Japanese honeysuckle, goldenrod, dame’s rocket, & bouncing bet as well as manure liquid. Caterpillars eat plants from the citrus (Rutaceae) family. Status in Wild: Stable Conservation: Breeding in butterfly gardens, zoos, aquariums, & museums Lifestyle: Found in small to medium-sized groups Additional Info: Called: Male Female Young: Caterpillar Group: Flutter Weight: Male: 0.8-0.9 g Female: 0.9-1 g Gestation: 4-10 days Life Span: 5 weeks-9.5 months Body Length/Wingspan: Male: 5.51 in Female: 5.78 in Caterpillar: 1-1.4 in Main predators of adults are birds, reptiles, ants, wasps, snakes, mammals, & amphibians. These plus flies & spiders eat caterpillars & pupae. Females lay eggs on citrus leaves, w/ eggs hatching after 4-10 days. Caterpillar stage lasts up to 3 weeks. They go through 5 instars (development phases) before attaching themselves vertically to plant becoming pupae (chrysalis). Chrysalis (pupal) stage lasts 10-20 days (except for overwintering pupae). Overwintering pupae last until transforming into butterflies. Butterfly stage lasts 6-14 days. Female butterflies die after laying eggs & males die after mating. Caterpillars use camouflage as well as osmeterial organ to protect from predators. Osmeteria (located behind head) inflates into orange/red Y-shaped growth resembling snake’s forked tongue. 4th & 5th instar osmeteria has bad-smelling toxic acidic mixture. Males search for females along set flight paths & near host plants. Males & females mate facing away from each other. Caterpillars active at night (nocturnal). They’re very popular in butterfly houses due to beauty & large size. They’re very strong fliers & can glide long distances. Each year yields 2-3 generations. Fun Fact(s): Caterpillars can cause considerable damage to citrus farms-especially to younger plants. Due to love for citrus, caterpillars also called orange dogs or orange puppies. Also called bird poop caterpillars.
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