Great Mormon Butterfly: Identification, Life Cycle, and Behavior

In this article, we’re exploring the fascinating world of the Great Mormon butterfly, also known as Papilio memnon. You’ll learn about their unique identification features, complex life cycle, and intriguing behavior. Let’s dive right in to discover more about this stunning creature.

Great Mormon butterfly

What is the Classification of Great Mormon?

The Great Mormon, scientifically known as Papilio memnon, is a large and majestic butterfly that falls within the animal kingdom. As a species, it belongs to the class Insecta, with butterflies coming under the order Lepidoptera.

  • To break it down further, it’s part of the family Papilionidae, commonly referred to as swallowtail butterflies.
  • Within this family, it sits in the genus Papilio, a broad category encompassing over 500 species of colorful and vibrant butterflies.
  • This narrows down to the species Memnon, an emblem for its grandeur and beautiful appeal.

This classification reflects the clear hierarchy in the world of arthropods and specifically within the butterfly community. As follows:

Level Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Class Insecta
Order Lepidoptera
Family Papilionidae
Genus Papilio
Species Memnon

So next time you spot a Great Mormon butterfly fluttering by, remember, it’s not just a pretty creature. Rather, it is a fine specimen of the fascinating diversity within the animal kingdom, more specifically, within the class of insects. Speak its full classification, ‘Papilio memnon’, and appreciate the beauty of nature’s traceable scheme.

What is the Distribution of Great Mormon?

The Great Mormon, or Papilio memnon, is a butterfly primarily found in South Asia and Southeast Asia. It favors the tropical and subtropical regions of these areas.

  • It is widespread in countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand.
  • If you travel further east, you will see them in China, Taiwan, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Philippines.
  • They do not limit their existence to only mainland regions, you will find them on many islands, such as Sumatra, Borneo, and Java.

These butterflies have a wide altitude range, from sea level to 2800 meters. A remarkable distribution indeed! They’re often spotted in open spaces and cultivated areas.

The Great Mormon has a broad geographic reach, primarily preferring warmer, lush Asian environments. Remarkably adaptable, they’ve carved out niches in various habitats from the ground level to high in the mountains.

For butterfly enthusiasts, this wide distribution offers ample opportunities to spot and study these fascinating creatures. Quite an extraordinary insect, don’t you think?

What are the Main Characteristics of the Great Mormon?

The Great Mormon (Papilio memnon) is renowned for its unique visual appearance. One of the most striking traits is its large size, with wingspans ranging between 120-150mm (about 4.7-5.9 inches), making it a relatively large species of butterfly.

  • Colour and Patterns: Great Mormon butterflies have distinct and varied colorations. Males typically have black wings adorned with a series of white streaks or spots, providing both a striking contrast and a dazzling display. Females, on the other hand, have a more complex color pattern, with hues that range from black and white to a mixed palette of blue, red, and yellow, often in lovely patterns that serve as a deterrent to potential predators.
  • Wing Shape: The wing shape of the Great Mormon is another defining feature. The forewings of the butterfly are elongated and somewhat squared at the tips, while the hindwings have a scalloped border and often feature tail-like extensions in various lengths. This distinctive wing shape is not only aesthetically pleasing but also provides the butterfly with extra maneuverability during flight.
  • Sexual Dimorphism: One of the fascinating aspects of the Great Mormon butterfly is the pronounced sexual dimorphism. In simpler terms, males and females look significantly different from each other (not just in color but also in size and pattern), which is not always common in the butterfly world.

The main characteristics of the Great Mormon include not just its size but also its stunning color patterns, distinctive wing shapes, and clear sexual dimorphism. Each of these elements contributes to making it one of the most interesting and visually impressive butterfly species that nature has gifted us with.

How to Identify Male and Female Great Mormon?

The Great Mormon (Papilio memnon) is well known for its striking sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females of the species have distinct appearances. Male and female Great Mormons can be identified and differentiated by looking at their size, color, and wing patterns.

Male Great Mormons are typically larger than females, measuring from 12 to 15 cm (4.7 to 5.9 in) in wingspan. They have a black to dark brown color with pale yellow bands on the wings that look like beautiful artistic lines.

On the other hand, female Great Mormons are somewhat smaller, varying between 8 to 12 cm (3.1 to 4.7 in) in wingspan. They are black or dark brown as well but with white streaks on the wings and several morphos, some of which mimic the unpalatable Red-bodied Swallowtails (Pachliopta and Atrophaneura).

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Size: Males are larger than female.
  • Color: Both are black/ dark brown but males have pale yellow bands, and females have white streaks.
  • Wing patterns: Males have clear artistic lines, whereas females mimic other Swallowtail species.

Keep an eye out for these features, and you’ll become a Great Mormon identification expert in no time!

What is the Mating Ritual of Great Mormon?

The mating rituals of the Great Mormon butterfly are fascinating. Females display what is known as “mate refusal behavior”, which includes flutteringrapid wing flapping, and erratic flight pattern.

  • Fluttering: A common tactic performed by the female butterfly to show its disinterest in its suitors.
  • Rapid wing flapping: Another unique trait whereby the female butterfly flaps its wings rapidly to signal rejection.
  • Erratic flight pattern: The female flies in unpredictable ways, making it tricky for the male butterfly to win her over.

Males, on the other hand, showcase pursuit, patrolling and perching behaviors during mating season.

  • Pursuit behavior: Constantly trying to get the attention of the female.
  • Patrolling behavior: The male butterfly guards its territory and keeps an eye out for potential mates.
  • Perching behavior: Positioning themselves strategically, making them visible to the female.

Understanding the mating ritual of the Great Mormon is quite important. It isn’t just for reproduction, but it serves as a survival mechanism for the species. So the next time you see a Great Mormon butterfly dancing in the sky, remember that you’re witnessing a creative and strategic courtship.

What Does the Caterpillar of Great Mormon Look Like?

The caterpillar of the Great Mormon butterfly is a visual delight. Unlike most caterpillars, it is not elongated but rather stumpy and plump. It radiates a vibrant green color that could easily captivate your attention.

The body is artistically dotted with minuscule white specks, providing a stunning contrast to the lush green. Embedded among these dots are black rings that encircle the body intermittently, making the caterpillar quite easy to identify in nature.

A unique feature worth noting is the prominent, forked osmeterium, a special gland, that is usually hidden. When threatened, the Great Mormon caterpillar will extend this red, two-pronged osmeterium to fend off predators.

  • Color: Lush Green
  • Texture: Stumpy and Plump
  • Special Features: White Dots, Black Rings, Red Forked Osmeterium

The Great Mormon caterpillar is a treat to the eyes in the insect world. It is uniquely equipped to deter predation and displays the timeless principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ in its own special way. Young caterpillars camouflage perfectly with their surroundings, whereas mature ones signal a warning with their appearance.

What is the Life Cycle of Great Mormon?

Let’s dive deep into the captivating life cycle of the Great Mormon butterfly. Starting as an egg, this life journey evolves to a caterpillar, pupa, then finally, the adult butterfly.

First, the egg stage, the initial phase, generally lasts for 2-4 days. The female lays her pale green, spherical eggs on the leaves of host plants. The foliage serves as immediate food for newly hatched caterpillars.

In the next transition, the egg hatches into a caterpillar, or a larva. The caterpillar stage is focused on growth, with the creature going through five stages of ‘instars’, each separated by a molting event. This stage can last for 15-30 days, depending on the environment and available food resources.

After this voracious feeding and breathing stage, the caterpillar submerges into the pupa or chrysalis stage. Pupation lasts about 15-18 days, during which the caterpillar undergoes a remarkable transformation called metamorphosis.

Finally, the fully-formed adult Great Mormon butterfly emerges from the pupa, ready to mate and reproduce, thus setting another life cycle in motion. Adult Great Mormons can live for up to a month.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of a Great Mormon?

Ever wondered how long a Great Mormon butterfly can live? On average, Great Mormons (Papilio memnon) can live for about 1 month in the wild. However, their lifespan tends to extend when they are kept in captivity. Under ideal conditions, they may live up to 3 months.

Remember, the life expectancy of Great Mormons, like all butterflies, is influenced by a variety of factors. Their survival rate substantially depends on lurking predators, prevalent environmental conditions, and their overall health status.

Consequently, the ability of Great Mormons to reach their full life expectancy can significantly vary. In the end, each Great Mormon’s lifespan is dictated by nature and the environment within which it resides. So, let’s consider, every moment counts for these winged beauties, painting our world with their colorful patterns.

What Does the Diet of a Great Mormon Consist Of?

Bold, beautiful, and quite fond of a delicious meal – that’s your Great Mormon caterpillar for you. This mighty critter’s diet primarily consists of plant leaves, particularly munching on leaves from Citrus and Rutaceae species. They consume these leaves like gourmet delicacies, for more the food, the faster they grow.

  • Rutaceae plants: Enjoyed as a hearty meal by Great Mormons, the Rutaceae family includes commonly-found citrus plants like the calamondin (Citrus microcarpa) or the Murraya Koenigii.
  • Citrus plants: An integral part of Great Mormons’ diet, these include lime (Citrus aurantifolia), orange (Citrus sinensis), and grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), among others.

Remember, these calorie-rich plant leaves fuel our caterpillar’s transformation into that gorgeous Great Mormon butterfly. So, a diverse plant-based menu is key to their survival, especially during their caterpillar phase. Developing a preference for certain plant species allows them to master and maximize the use of their food resources.

While the adult Great Mormons indulge in sweet floral nectar and saps for nourishment, one thing you should note – they have little interest in the human version of “dessert”.

In other words, sugary substances such as fruits don’t really attract these butterfly beings. Stick to the leafy greens for your Great Mormon and you’ll have one happy and healthy butterfly friend!

Which Plants Serve as the Primary Hosts for Great Mormon?

The Great Mormon (Papilio memnon) is a large butterfly species that banks heavily on specific types of plants for its survival. The primary hosts for the Great Mormon caterpillars are the plants from the citrus family including lemon, orange, grapefruit and other types of Citrus trees.

They rely on these plants to serve as their food source and breeding ground. These types of plants provide an excellent source of nourishment for the caterpillars to grow into mature butterflies. Other than citrus plants, Great Mormons are also particularly fond of Rutaceae family plants such as Murraya and Evodia species.

It’s captivating to see how these butterflies have tailored their life cycle around these plants. Understandably, if you’re looking to attract Great Mormons or rear them, consider incorporating citrus plants or plants of Rutaceae family into your garden. The availability of these specific plants can greatly influence the propensity of these butterflies to chose your garden as their habitat.

Remember, each of these plants play a pivotal role in the Great Mormon’s life cycle from serving as a place to lay their eggs, to being the main food source for the hatched larvae. Therefore, the presence of these plants is fundamental to the survival and propagation of the Great Mormon butterfly.

What are the Unique Mimicry Behaviors in Great Mormon?

The Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, showcases some of the most fascinating mimicry behaviors in the insect world. This tends to make their identification and examination a truly captivating exercise. What’s more, these behaviors serve a critical role in their survival strategy in the wild.

At the heart of their mimicry is the female Great Mormon’s remarkable ability to imitate different species. This is referred to as female-limited polymorphism or Batesian mimicry. List each phenotypic form separately, each resembling different models in their environment. This not only confuses predators but also aides in their disguise, increasing their chances of survival.

Additionally, these butterflies are masterful in mimicking both the color and pattern of other more threatening species. This effective and deceptive display trick predators into thinking they’re a less palatable or even poisonous species. Their mimicry abilities remain one of the many wonders in the natural world, marveled by scientists and butterfly enthusiasts alike.

Through an array of mimicry behaviors, the Great Mormon has honed its survival game. Its chameleon-like skills display evolution’s sophisticated works, much to our delight and fascination.

What Are the Main Threats to Great Mormon Populations?

Habitat loss stands as a towering threat to the Great Mormons. They thrive in tropical and subtropical forests, which are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation. Not only does the forest loss deprive them of their natural habitats, but it also strips away the specific host plants needed for their life cycle.

Next in line is the illegal butterfly trade. Despite protection laws, the strikingly beautiful Great Mormons remain in high demand for butterfly collections and displays. Their unique appearance makes them a prized catch for collectors, leading to unsustainable hunting.

Lastly, climate change poses a relatively new, but significant danger. Shifts in temperature, precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events can disrupt the delicate balance of life for these butterflies. It can affect their distribution, the availability of food sources, and even their reproduction.

  • Deforestation
  • Illegal butterfly trade
  • Climate change

The trio of threats – habitat loss, illegal trade, and climate change – constitutes a deadly cocktail, pushing the Great Mormon populations towards a perilous edge.

Threat Effect
Habitat Loss Deprives them of natural habitats and strips away the specific host plants needed
Illegal butterfly trade Leads to unsustainable hunting
Climate change Disrupts their life balance by affecting their distribution, food sources, and reproduction


In the end, the Great Mormon (Papilio memnon) is a fascinating creature with its beautiful appearance, complex life cycle and intriguing behaviors. Understanding and appreciating its uniqueness can indeed add vibrancy to our knowledge of nature. Feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts or experiences with this amazing butterfly.

Butterflies   Updated: July 2, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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