The Dainty Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio anactus) is a medium-sized Australian butterfly. It is also called the Dingy Swallowtail or Small Citrus Butterfly.
The Dainty Swallowtail (adult butterfly) is generally black with rows of pale yellow spots and patches. On the tail, it has several small, light blue, red, or white spots. Its head is large and black with a white V-mark. The back edge of its hindwing is scalloped and the tip of its body is yellow. It can have a patch of red underneath its head.
The caterpillar (larva) is dark with broad yellow-orange bands running across its body, and two rows of black spines running down its back. Its head is black and smooth. As it matures its body becomes blue-black.
It has a wingspan of up to 7 centimetres (2.8 inches).
The caterpillar feeds on leaves, flowers, and buds of citrus trees (orange and lemon trees). The butterfly uses it long proboscis (sucking nose) to suck nectar from flowers.
To prevent animals from eating it, the non-poisonous Dainty Swallowtail mimics the poisonous male Cressida cressida Swallowtail Butterfly. Animals become confused and therefore leave it alone. Caterpillars of the Dainty Swallowtail also emit a foul smell from behind its head to prevent predators from eating it.
The Dainty Swallowtail is found in eastern Australia where there are citrus groves and orchards. It is also found on New Caledonia.
Females lay large, pale yellow, spherical eggs on green leaves. Eggs usually hatch into caterpillars after about 3-4 days.
Caterpillars pupate – they make a chrysalis, which is a casing. Inside the casing, the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis (changes) for 9-15 days, and it emerges as an adult butterfly.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM