(previously known as Elleppone anactus)
These Caterpillars are commonly found on cultivated Citrus, such as :
The caterpillar will also feed on the Australian native plants:
all in RUTACEAE.
The early instars are kite shaped, and coloured dark blue with orange spots. The body surface is covered by small fleshy spikes.
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.
(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.
The pupa is slim with a bifurcated head rather like a pair of horns. It is a patchy green colour, and secured to a stem of the foodplant head up, by a cremaster and girdle. If the pupa is brown or has brown markings, it is probably dead or parasitised. 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.
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.
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.
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 mainland Australia, including
Butterflies of this species may be purchased for release at weddings etc.
Further reading :
Michael F. Braby,
Butterflies of Australia,
CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 265-266.
Life history notes on the Dainty Swallowtail Papilio (Eleppone) anactus (W.S. Macleay, 1826) Lepidoptera: Papilionidae,
Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,,
Issue 90, pp. 20-23.
Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, p. 16.
William Sharp Macleay,
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.
(written 11 August 1996, updated 9 July 2012, 20 September 2013, 20 February 2015, 9 June 2020, 3 April 2021, 20 March 2022)