Large Citrus Butterfly: Identification, Life Cycle, and Behavior

Dive into the unique world of the Large Citrus Butterfly, a fascinating insect bursting with beauty and complexity.

Unearth its identification methods, lifecycle, and peculiar behavior.

Discover the threats they face and the role they play in their surroundings.

Orchard Swallowtail butterfly

What is the Classification of Large Citrus Butterfly?

The Large Citrus Butterfly, Papilio demoleus, belongs to the expansive kingdom Animalia. Boldly classed under Insecta in the Arthropoda phylum, it proudly carries the characteristics of its species.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Species: P. demoleus

This insect is a member of the Papilionidae family, one known for flamboyant butterflies. The genus Papilio homesteads our focus, the Large Citrus Butterfly, bearing the official title P. demoleus.

Overall, it’s nestled in Lepidoptera. This order cuddles both butterflies and moths, sharing feathery antennae and an exceptional sense of smell.

In terms of classification, multiple interconnected features shape up a spectacular creature: the Large Citrus Butterfly.

What is the Distribution of Large Citrus Butterfly?

Certainly, the Large Citrus Butterfly showcases a significant global distribution. Exclusive to the continents of Asia and Australia, these beautiful butterflies cover an expansive range.

In Asia, habitats stretch from India to Japan. Specifically, they’re commonly found in regions like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Transposing to Australia, you’ll spot them in New South Wales, Queensland, and other northern regions. This southern spread creates a remarkable understanding of adaptation in different climates.

Interestingly, their living proximity to citrus plantations forms a unique relationship. Consequentially, these butterflies are entwined with both wild and domestic citrus trees, explaining their names.

  • India: Citrus plantations
  • Malaysia: Orange orchards
  • Australia: Lemon and lime farms

Finally, one must note the incredible adaptability of these butterflies; existing in both lowlands and mountains, from sea level up to 2,000 meters (~6,561 feet).

A testament to their resilience in diverse environments.

What are the Main Characteristics of the Large Citrus Butterfly?

The Large Citrus Butterfly, also known as Papilio demoleus, is notable for its striking appearance. It primarily displays a black coloration with yellow spots, providing a stark contrast that aids in identification.

The forewings display yellow spots on both sides while the hindwings feature a single, centrally located, yellow spot.

The size of this butterfly also sets it apart. The Large Citrus Butterfly’s wingspan typically spans from 80 to 110 millimeters (around 3 to 4 inches), making it one of the larger butterfly species. As a matter of fact, its size is where its name is derived from.

These butterflies are also recognized by their flight pattern. They fly rapidly, often low to the ground, and pause only to feed or mate. When at rest, their wings remain in an upright position.

Distinctive Characteristics of Large Citrus Butterfly:

  • Color: Predominantly black with yellow spots.
  • Size: Wingspan of 80 – 110 mm (3 – 4 inches).
  • Flight Pattern: Flies rapidly, maintaining low altitude.
  • Resting Posture: Keeps wings upright while at rest.

Remember, these unique traits make the Large Citrus Butterfly easy to identify. So whether you’re an enthusiastic lepidopterist or just fond of butterfly watching, knowing these characteristics will surely aid you in spotting this magnificent creature.

How to Identify Male and Female Large Citrus Butterfly?

Before we dive in, it’s essential to note that butterfly identification generally hinges on minute details.

Primarily, Large Citrus Butterflies are differentiated by size and color. Males tend to be larger, measuring approximately 3.5 to 4 inches (9 to 10 cm) across.

Females, however, are slightly smaller and their coloring might not be as vivid.

To differentiate:

  • Male Large Citrus Butterfly:
    • Their wings are adorned with black spots on a rich yellow ground.
    • The upper wing is wider and has a pronounced curve.
    • Edges of the wings have thin black lines that appear more pronounced than in females.
  • Female Large Citrus Butterfly:
    • They bear a paler yellow color with subdued spots.
    • Their wings are slightly narrower with a less notable curve.
    • Black lines at the wing edges are thinner and less pronounced.

Take note that identifying the butterfly’s sex could be challenging. Years of butterflies adapting for survival led them to develop rigorous camouflage techniques, causing a blurring of identifiers.

Observation and understanding of these creatures tend to be more reliable during the mating season, as behavior between sexes can vary significantly.

What is the Mating Ritual of Large Citrus Butterfly?

To satiate your curiosity, let’s delve into the engaging mating habits of the large citrus butterfly. These butterflies follow a unique ritual known as aerial courtship.

The male butterfly pursues the female ones in a swift, spirited mid-air chase before locking her in a coupling process.

This display continues with the male butterfly fluttering energetically around the potentially receptive female. His lively movement is a demonstration of vigour aimed at impressing the female.

Once interested, the female then lands on a leaf and spreads her wings to signal her readiness for copulation.

Their coupling can last for several hours. Interestingly, diseases are curbed significantly by nature during this process as the male large citrus butterfly passes beneficial bacteria to the female during mating.

This event provides better resistance for the female against harmful pathogens.

Courtship in large citrus butterflies is a complex and fascinating procedure. It’s a reaffirmation of the vibrant nature of these magnificent creatures.

However, increasing human intrusion into their habitats threatens these grand displays, making the elucidation and perpetuation of their rituals all the more important.

What Does the Caterpillar of Large Citrus Butterfly Look Like?

The caterpillar of the Large Citrus Butterfly, also known as Papilio demoleus, is a sight to behold. With its vibrant hues and unique patterns, it stands out among other species.

Adorned in the bold colors of bright green, earthy brown, and taupe grey, the caterpillar is eye-catching. You’ll notice subtle, white speckles along its entire body, enhancing its abstract appearance.

The caterpillar boasts of an impressive length, reaching up to 1.8 inches (approximately 45.72 millimeters). A peculiar characteristic which you can’t miss is its “tentacles”.

The presence of retractable, orange-colored tentacles gives it an alien-like feel.

Lastly, check its body shape and texture. Unlike most caterpillars, the Large Citrus Butterfly caterpillar is somewhat flattened, with its body covered in a protective layer of semi-gelatinous substance.

This distinct feature makes it easily identifiable among other caterpillars.

In its entirety, the Large Citrus Butterfly caterpillar presents an intriguingly beautiful spectacle of Mother Nature’s grand designs.

What is the Life Cycle of Large Citrus Butterfly?

The life cycle of the Large Citrus Butterfly, like other butterflies, encompasses four stages. These stages include the egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult stage.

  • Egg Stage: It starts when a female butterfly lays her eggs on citrus trees. These are barely 0.05 inches (1.27 millimeters) in size and hatch into caterpillars in about 4-5 days.
  • Caterpillar Stage: The hatched larvae, commonly known as caterpillars, feed on the leaves of the host plant for about 2-3 weeks. During this time, they undergo five stages of growth known as “instars”.
  • Pupa Stage: To transform into an adult butterfly, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage which lasts for 1-2 weeks. During this stage, the caterpillar stays immobile and undergoes a process called metamorphosis until it turns into an adult butterfly.
  • Adult Stage: After transforming, the butterfly emerges from the pupa. Its main focus in this stage is to reproduce and lay eggs. The lifespan of an adult large citrus butterfly averages about 2-3 weeks.

As you can see, the entire life cycle of a large citrus butterfly is completed in approximately 6-8 weeks. This cycle is crucial in understanding the butterfly’s behavior and habitat needs.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of a Large Citrus Butterfly?

The Large Citrus Butterfly, scientifically known as Papilio demoleus, typically has an impressive lifespan in the range of 2-3 weeks. This seems short to humans but remember, in the insect world, this is a reasonable period of time.

It’s vital to consider that this life expectancy is after reaching adulthood. The complete lifecycle, from egg to butterfly, lasts a little longer – spanning approximately 4-6 weeks.

Factors like environmental conditions, availability of nectar bearing flowers, and predator presence can influence the longevity of these butterflies.

As delicate organisms, unfavorable conditions could reduce their lifespan.

On the contrary, while in the caterpillar stage, they have higher chances of survival due to their unique mimicry behavior. This equates to higher survival rates and consequently, a prolonged lifecycle.

In summary, from being an egg, to evolving into an engaging caterpillar, and finally morphing into the adult butterfly, their life cycle is transient yet fascinating.

What Does the Diet of a Large Citrus Butterfly Consist Of?

The diet of the Large Citrus Butterfly, also known as the Papilio demoleus, is quite straightforward. They feed primarily on nectar from various flowers when they are in their adult, butterfly stage.

This is their primary source of sustenance and energy for activities such as flying and breeding.

  • At the larval or caterpillar stage, the diet is slightly different. This is because caterpillars are unable to consume nectar due to their physical structure. They lack the long, coiled mouthparts or ‘proboscis’ which adult butterflies use to drink nectar.
  • Instead, caterpillars primarily consume leaves from a variety of citrus plants. Some of their preferred sources include grapefruit, orange, and lime trees. This is why they are commonly called the ‘Citrus Butterfly’.
  • To consume this food, the caterpillars use sharp mandibles to tear and chew leaves, effectively extracting all necessary nutrients. They feed voraciously during this stage, often causing significant damage to their host plants.
  • Once they pupate and become adult butterflies, they undergo a transition to nectar feeding, acquiring their energy from plant sugars rather than leaf matter. They use their newly developed proboscis to drink nectar from a variety of flower types.
  • It is also noteworthy that both caterpillars and adult butterflies are known to occasionally indulge in ‘puddling’ – a behavior where they drink moisture from damp soil or puddles, thought to help them gain necessary minerals.

Understanding the diet of the Large Citrus Butterfly is crucial as it poses key implications for their habitat and distribution, as well as their interaction with their host plants.

Consequently, this knowledge is beneficial for both citrus growers and conservationists alike.

Which Plants Serve as the Primary Hosts for Large Citrus Butterfly?

As the name suggests, the Large Citrus Butterfly, also known as Papilio Demodocus, is primarily attracted to citrus plants.

These butterflies have an intrinsic bond with these plants that dates back countless generations.

Citrus trees, specifically, form the primary fare for these insects. Oranges, lemons, and other citrus plants serve both as the feeding and breeding ground for these butterflies.

Citrus leaves make up a significant portion of the caterpillar’s diet, aiding in their nurturance into full-grown butterflies.

Apart from citrus, the Large Citrus Butterfly also prefers the indigenous Fluted Milkweed or Calotropis procera plant.

Despite it being a secondary source, its importance cannot be overlooked as it provides another safe haven for these creatures, indeed prizing an equilibrium in their eco-dynamics.

In summary, it’s evident that citrus trees along with the Fluted Milkweed constitute the ecosystem of these butterflies – serving as the food, habitat and breeding zone for them.

What are the Unique Mimicry Behaviors in Large Citrus Butterfly?

Unveiling the complex world of Large Citrus Butterflies, one striking aspect is their jade in mimicry behaviors. Mimicry involves them adopting the colors and patterns of other species, deceiving predators into thinking they are harmless or even dangerous.

Adopting the “Batesian” model of mimicry, these butterflies emulate birdlike patterns that discourage avian predators. They display biologically picturesque patterns. These patterns resemble the eyes of birds, tricking predators into thinking a larger creature is watching them.

Moreover, their masterstroke is in mimicking toxic species. This confuses predators who previously had a disconcerting experience with such toxic counterparts.

Their ability to blend in with the citrus foliage is commendable. The citric green hue of their wings let them blend seamlessly into their habitats. Therefore, they become practically invisible to predators in their mainly citrus-based environments.

In conclusion, Large Citrus Butterflies excel in their mimicry skills, using these to ensure their survival. Through these behaviors, they brilliantly make a ‘mockery’ of their predators!

What Are the Main Threats to Large Citrus Butterfly Populations?

You will be surprised to discover what threatens large citrus butterflies. Habitat loss is a major concern. With expanding human populations and agricultural development, forests are declining rapidly.

This limits places where these butterflies can safely lay their eggs and develop their caterpillars. Your favorite citrus orchards are also a part of this!

  • Pesticide use: Pesticides are commonly used, and butterflies are significantly susceptible. Unfortunately, even though they may not be the intended targets, they end up being victims. Pesticides don’t differentiate.
  • Climate Change: Yes, it’s affecting butterflies too! Unpredictable climate patterns can disrupt their life cycle. Cold or unseasonal weather can impede their growth.
  • Natural Predators: As part of the natural food web, they are destined to have predators. Birds and spiders find these butterflies an easy target.
  • Diseases and Parasites: Like all creatures, butterflies are vulnerable to disease and parasitic infection.

Do you see the irony? Isn’t it amazing how something so lovely can be susceptible to so many threats? It’s time for us to be aware and act wisely.


In essence, the large citrus butterfly is a marvellous creature, becoming more alluring the more we know about its life cycle, diet, and behavior.

By understanding and appreciating it, we can contribute to the preservation of this beautiful creature.

Please feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you found most fascinating about the large citrus butterfly.

Butterflies   Updated: September 14, 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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