Pachliopta polydorus (Linnaeus, 1763)
Red-bodied Swallowtail
(previously known as Papilio polydorus)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Pachliopta polydorus
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

This species was probably named after one of the significant figures in Greek mythology named Polydorus.

The Caterpillar of this species is a mottled brown colour, with rows of red and yellow fleshy tubercles. It feeds on vines from the family ARISTOLOCHIACEAE, including :

  • Chalmer's Birthwort ( Aristolochia chalmersii ),
  • Indian Birthwort ( Aristolochia indica ),
  • Cape York Birthwort ( Aristolochia peninsulensis ),
  • Birthwort ( Aristolochia tagala ),
  • Australian Native Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia thozetii ),
  • Cairns Birdwing Butterfly Vine ( Pararistolochia australopithecurus ),
  • Mountain Aristolochia ( Pararistolochia deltantha ), and
  • Heathlands Aristolochia ( Pararistolochia linearifolia ).

    Pachliopta polydorus
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The eggs are laid on a leaf of a foodplant, and also sadly on the introduced

  • Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia elegans ),

    Caterpillars feeding on the leaves of this plant die, because it is poisonous to them, as it is to caterpillars of Troides richmondia and Cressida cressida.

    Pachliopta polydorus
    caterpillar about to pupate
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    It is now an important project in the conservation of these Australian butterfly species to try to eliminate occurrences of

  • Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia elegans ), in the bush along the east coast of Australia, and to encourage people to grow in their gardens :
  • Richmond Birdwing Vine ( Aristolochia praevenosa ).

    Pachliopta polydorus
    (Specimen: courtesy of Tony Craft, Coffs Harbour Butterfly House)

    The pupa is white mottled with brown. It has a concave back, and a row of flanges along each side. The pupa has a length of about 3 cms.

    Atrophaneura polydorus
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The wings of the adults are black with white patches, and have a span of about 9 cms. The hind wings have some red spots near the margin. These spots appear to mimic other Australian Swallowtails.

    Pachliopta polydorus
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The underside is similar, except that the underside of the abdomen is scarlet.

    The species occurs as several subspecies over the south-west Pacific, and has been reported in

  • New Ireland,
  • New Guinea, and
  • New Zealand.

    The subspecies queenslandicus (Rothschild, 1895) occurs in Australia in

  • Queensland along the north-east coast.

    Further reading :

    Dennis Bell,
    Observations on the life history of the Red-bodied Swallowtail, Pachliopta polydorus queenslandica (Rothschild, 1895),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 90, pp. 20-23.

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 279-280.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Centuria Insectorum,
    Amoenitates Academicae,
    Volume 6 (1763), p. 401, No. 50.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 30 January 2010, 28 December 2023)