Papilio fuscus Goeze, 1779
Canopus Butterfly
Don Herbison-Evans
Peter R. Samson & Stella Crossley

Papilio fuscus
(Photo copyright: Peter Samson)

The eggs of this species are pale yellow, and spherical. They are laid singly on young shoots of a foodplant.

Initially this Caterpillar is rusty brown with white patches. Later the caterpillar becomes green with white markings. The thorax is humped. The prothorax and the final abdominal segment each have a pair of conical lumps.

Papilio fuscus
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of Nell, Broome, Western Australia)

The caterpillar feeds on various members of the RUTACEAE plant family including the Australian natives :

  • Northern Towra ( Bosistoa medicinalis ),
  • Clausena ( Clausena brevistyla ),
  • Finger lime ( Citrus australasica ),
  • Mt White Lime ( Citrus garrawayae ),
  • Large Leaf Lime ( Citrus inodora ),
  • Satin Wood ( Zanthoxylum brachyacanthum ),
  • Prickly Ash ( Zanthoxylum nitidum ),
  • Australian Willow ( Geijera parviflora ),
  • Orangeberry ( Glycosmis trifoliata = pentaphylla ),
  • Kerosine Wood ( Halfordia kendack ),
  • Lime Berry ( Micromelum minutum ),

    and the introduced :

  • Japanese Prickly Ash ( Zanthoxylum ailanthoides ),
  • Curry Leaf Tree, ( Murraya koenigii ),
  • Orange Jessamine ( Murraya paniculata ),
  • Lemon ( Citrus limon ),
  • Seville Orange ( Citrus aurantium ),
  • Sweet Lime ( Citrus aurantifolia ),
  • Mandarin ( Citrus reticulata ), and
  • Orange ( Citrus sinensis ).

    Papilio fuscus
    early instar displaying osmeterium
    (Photo: courtesy of Ross Kendall,
    Butterfly Encounters, Indooroopilly, Queensland)

    When the caterpillars are disturbed, they are inclined to poke out a red forked osmeterium from behind the head, and produce a strong aromatic smell.

    Papilio fuscus
    late instar
    (Photo copyright: Peter Samson)

    The pupa is green with a white line along each side. It is attached to a stem of the foodplant with cremaster and girdle. Depending on environmental conditions, the pupal period can be anything between two weeks and three years.

    Papilio fuscus
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The adults have black wings, each with a wide white band. The hind wings also each have a row of red and of blue spots, and a blunt tail at the tornus. The butterflies have a wingspan of about 8 cms.

    Papilio fuscus
    (Photo: courtesy of Adrienne Catherall, Buderim, Queensland)

    The species occurs as various controversial races across south-east Asia, including

  • New Guinea
  • Vanuatu,

    and the tropical coastal areas of Australia including

  • canopus Westwood, 1842, in Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia,
  • capaneus Westwood, 1843 in Queensland, and New South Wales, and
  • indicatus Butler, 1876, in Queensland.

    Papilio fuscus
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    "Butterflies of Australia",
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 271-273.

    Johann August Ephraim Goeze,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Entomologische Beyträge zu des Ritter Linné zwölften Ausgabe des Natursystems,
    Volume 3, Part 1 (1779), p. 87, No. 71.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 20, 65.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 21 December 2009, 25 October 2013, 13 March 2015, 9 June 2020)