Papilio demoleus Linnaeus, 1758
Lime or Chequered Swallowtail
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Papilio demoleus
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

Early instars of these Caterpillars of this species are dark blue with one or two orange diagonal stripes, and have short spines along the body, and longer ones on the thorax and ninth abdominal segment. In later instars, the orange stripes become green and the spines degenerate to coloured knobs. The last instar is mainly green, with orange spots.

Papilio demoleus
late instar
(Photo: courtesy of Peter Samson)

In Australia the caterpillars feed on various plants in FABACEAE such as

  • Emu Foot ( Cullen tenax ),
  • Tall Verbine ( Cullen australasicum ),
  • Annual Verbine ( Cullen cinereum ),
  • Spreading Scurf Pea ( Cullen patens ),
  • African Scurf Pea ( Psoralea pinnata ),

    and plants in RUTACEAE such as :

  • Lemon ( Citrus limon ),
  • Mandarin ( Citrus reticulata ),
  • Wild Orange ( Microcitrus australis ), and
  • Curry Leaf Tree, ( Murraya koenigii ).

    Papilio demoleus
    (Photo courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 4 cms. The pupa is initially green, later turning brown, and is attached to a stem of the foodplant by cremaster and girdle. It has two projections on the head and one on the thorax. Its length is about 3 cms.

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

    The adult butterflies have buff coloured wings with wide black edges containing buff spots. The hindwings also have two eyespots: one red and one blue.

    Papilio demoleus
    (Photo: courtesy of Paul Kay)

    The underside is similar with narrower and paler black markings. The butterflies have a wingspan of about 10 cms. There is no obvious difference between the sexes.

    Papilio demoleus
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of Todd Burrows, South Stradbroke Island, Queensland)

    Usually seen rapidly flying in one direction at a constant height, they only occasionally land, and catching one is a real thrill.

    Papilio demoleus
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The eggs are pale yellow and spherical. They are usuallly laid singly on the upper surfaces of leaves of a foodplant.

    Papilio demoleus
    (Photo: courtesy of Gary Brooks, Tinnanbar, Queensland)

    The species Papilio demoleus occurs as a number of subspecies over much of tropical Asia, including :

  • Christmas Island,
  • India,
  • Malaysia,
  • New Guinea,
  • Taiwan.
    It has recently been reported in the Caribbean in
  • Puerto Rico.

    The subspecies sthenelus W.S.Macleay, 1826, is found in New Guinea and the whole of mainland Australia including:

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

    Papilio demoleus stamp
    Kampuchea 1986

    This species is featured at Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. 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. 274-276.

    Wesley Jenkinson,
    Life history notes on the Chequered Swallowtail, Papilio demoleus W.S Macleay, 1826, Lepidoptera: Papilionidae,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 87 (December 2017), pp. 15-17.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, p. 11.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    , Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 464, No. 35.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 16 Spetember 2010, 12 March 2023)