Papilio anactus W.S. Macleay, 1826
Dainty Swallowtail
(previously known as Elleppone anactus)
PAPILIONIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Papilio anactus

These Caterpillars are commonly found on cultivated Citrus, such as :

  • Kaffir Lime ( Citrus hystrix ),
  • Lemon ( Citrus limon ),
  • Grapefruit ( Citrus paradisi ),
  • Madarin ( Citrus reticulata ),
  • Orange ( Citrus sinensis ),
  • Wood Apple ( Limonia acidissima ), and
  • Hardy Orange ( Poncirus trifoliata ).

    Papilio anactus
    (Specimen: courtesy of Neil Horner, Canberra)

    The caterpillar will also feed on the Australian native plants:

  • Wild Orange ( Citrus australis ),
  • Large Leaf Lime ( Citrus inodora ),
  • Desert Lime ( Eremocitrus glauca ),
  • Australian Willow ( Geijera parviflora ),
  • Finger Lime ( Microcitrus australasica ), and

    all in RUTACEAE.

    Papilio anactus
    (Specimen: courtesy of Fred Swindley, West Ryde, Sydney)

    The early instars are kite shaped, and coloured dark blue with orange spots. The body surface is covered by small fleshy spikes.

    Papilio anactus
    (Specimen: courtesy of Robert Whyte, The Gap, Brisbane)

    The later instars are cylindrical with short knob-like spines. They reach a length of 4 centimetres, and are coloured brown or dark blue, with yellow, white and orange spots.

    Papilio anactus
    Papilio anactus
    ( Photo: courtesy of Alex Peters and Heath Dillon )
    (Photo: courtesy of Bruce Anstee)

    When disturbed, all instars evert an orange osmeterium from just behind the head producing a decaying citrus smell. The smell is produced by a fluid secreted from glands near the base of the osmeterium. The Caterpillar aims the osmeterium towards the disturbance, and the secretion may be more effective when applied directly to a predators skin. It appears to be harmless to human skin.

    Papilio anactus
    (Photo: courtesy of Jan Lile, North Ipswich, Queensland)

    Papilio anactus
    (Photo: courtesy of Jan Lile, North Ipswich, Queensland)

    Papilio anactus
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The pupa is slim with a bifurcated head rather like a pair of horns. It is green and/or brown, and secured to a stem of the foodplant head up, by a cremaster and girdle. Pupae formed in summer mature in about four weeks, but those formed in March or April may stay dormant throughout the whole winter. The pupa has a length of about 3 cms.

    Papilio anactus
    (Photo: courtesy of Patricia Maree, Capalaba, Queensland)

    The adult butterflies have a wing span around 7 cms. They are black and white, with red and smaller blue spots on the margin of each hindwing. These spots appear to mimic other Australian Swallowtails.

    Papilio anactus
    underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Patricia Maree, Capalaba, Queensland)

    The males establish territories which are strenuously defended, an interesting spectacle to watch. The unusual thing is the same territories will be used year after year.

    Papilio anactus
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The eggs are pale yellow and spherical. They are laid singly on the undersides near the edge of young leaves of a foodplant.

    The species is commonly found all over the east of mainland Australia, including

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria, and
  • South Australia.

    Butterflies of this species may be purchased for release at weddings etc.

    Papilio anactus
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 265-266.

    Ross Kendall,
    Images of Butterfly Larvae,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 55 (December 2009), p. 32,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Ross Kendall,
    Three amigos,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 67 (December 2012), pp. 31-32,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    William Sharp Macleay,
    Annulosa,
    in Philip Parker King :
    Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia,
    Volume 2 (1826), Appendix B, p. 458, No. 134.


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    (written 11 August 1996, updated 9 July 2012, 20 September 2013, 20 February 2015)