This Lime or Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus subsp. sthenelus) sighting was the first specimen we’d seen in this area. A very active butterfly it was loath to sit still long, and usually kept it’s top wings fluttering ready for a quick escape.
It has a very distinctively marked body, continuing the black wing stripes down the thorax and abdomen. The inside of the wings displays a dense chequered pattern across the shoulders, and two distinctive spots on the outer margin of each hind wing – an upper one blue, often hidden by the top wing, and the lower more obvious spot a rusty orange.
Since the 100mm+ rainfall last week there has been a sudden increase in butterfly numbers and activity. The Tailed Emperors are here this year in great numbers on the figs, and are frequently seen chasing each other in pairs.
A chance sighting of this Lime Swallowtail was a delightful bonus. It was flitting between three of our Duranta repens ‘Geisha Girl’ bushes, feeding on the nectar alongside numerous Australian Blue Banded Bees.
The numbers and variety of wildlife that are frequenting our small plantings are increasing each year. The Lime Swallowtail apparently uses various citrus as larvae food plants, so they have a lot of variety here to choose from now. This seems to be the common thread – provide food plants (nectar) for the butterflies, and larvae food plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, and they will come.
A quite large butterfly with a superficial resemblance to the Dingy Swallowtail, and sharing similar preferences for young citrus shoots to lay their much larger eggs. The Citrus Swallowtail is nowhere near as common as the Dingy Swallowtail. I have only seen 4, all females, in the past 2 years.
The Citrus Swallowtail is quite striking both for it’s markings and size. This individual had lost all of one hindwing, while the remaining hindwing was damaged. She was still quite a capable flier, just not as nimble as her undamaged “sisters”, who proved too restless and challenging so far to photograph.
This past summer the Citrus Swallowtails have been frequent if elusive visitors to our citrus, especially the two Tahitian Limes. Numerous of their caterpillars have been observed through late summer and into autumn. One tree in particular is host to at least eight Citrus Swallowtail caterpillars. I have been checking them daily and taking photographs and have noticed two subtly different colourations. This may be simply individual variation. Unfortunately shortly before pupating all bar one individual managed to completely vanish – hopefully into the leafy inner branches to pupate safely away from predators.
One pupating caterpillar however chose a spot not too difficult to get to with a camera, and the final few days to chrysalis stage were captured.
This record includes some of eight individual Citrus Swallowtail Caterpillars from one Tahitian Lime bush, and two from a second. These images were captured during the autumn and winter of 2011.