Graphium eurypylus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Pale Triangle
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

This species is probably named after one of men named Eurypylus of Ancient Greece, possibly from the Aeneid as the bringer of a dire message to the Greeks in their war with Troy.

Graphium eurypylus
first instar, magnified, length about 4 mms.
(Photo: courtesy of Antony Moore, Port Macquarie, New South Wales)

The first instar is black, with hairy tubercles on the head, thorax, and tail.

Graphium eurypylus
second instar, magnified, length about 8 mms.
(Photo: courtesy of Glenn White, Townsville, Queensland)

Later instars stay black, but lose the tubercles, and develop a pale yellow forked tail. The caterpillars are rather kite-shaped, being hump-backed in the thoracic region, and tapering to the tail.

Graphium eurypylus
final instar, length about 3 cms.
(Photo: courtesy of Glenn White, Townsville, Queensland)

The final instar is initially rusty brown, gradually becoming green at maturity

Graphium eurypylus
mature final instar, length about 4 cms.
(Photo: courtesy of Stewart Newman, Sydney, New South Wales)

The metathorax develops a short spike each side, which in later instars is dark blue. A pair of short dark spikes also develop on the head. A white set of flaps develop along the sides, like a white skirt. When disturbed, the caterpillar everts a transparent pale yellow osmeterium, and produces a strong aromatic odour.

Graphium eurypylus
second instar magnified, displaying osmeterium
(Photo: courtesy of Stewart Newman, Sydney, New South Wales)

The caterpillars are often found feeding on plants in the family ANNONACEAE, such as:

  • Pond Apple ( Annona glabra ),
  • Soursop ( Annona muricata ),
  • Custard Apple ( Annona reticulata ),
  • Sugar Apple ( Annona squamosa ),
  • Zig-zag Vine ( Melodorum leichhardtii ),
  • Canary Beech ( Polyalthia nitidissima ),

    as well as

  • Champak ( Magnolia champaca, MAGNOLIACEAE ).
  • Australian Tamarind ( Diploglottis australis, SAPINDACEAE ).

    However we found that the caterpillars failed to flourish on the Custard Apple.

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 4 cms.

    Graphium eurypylus

    The pupa is often formed on the upper surface of a leaf, usually facing the petiole. The pupa has a blunt thoracic horn, and is pale green with rows of darker green dots along each side. It has a length of about 2.5 cms. The butterflies spend winter as pupae. The adults emerge in October, and in Sydney: a second generation emerges in February.

    Graphium eurypylus
    (Photo: courtesy of Stewart Newman, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The adult is black with pale turquoise patches and spots. The underside also has some red spots. The males have a tuft of white hair across the hind margin of each hindwing.

    Graphium eurypylus
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The butterfly has a wingspan of about 6 cms.

    Races of this species are found throughout south-east Asia, including

  • Borneo,
  • India,
  • Papua,
  • Thailand,

    and several subspecies have been recognised in Australia including:

  • nyctimus (Waterhouse & Lyell, 1914) in the north of Western Australia, and the Northern Territory,
  • lycaon (Rothschild, 1895) in Queensland, and New South Wales.

    Graphium eurypylus

    These caterpillars start life as white, yellow, or greenish spherical eggs which are laid singly under leaves of the new shoots of a food plant. In the Sydney area the first generation hatches around October but are very inconspicuous. The February/March population is more conspicuous.

    Graphium eurypylus
    showing underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Di Donovan, Beecroft, New South Wales)

    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. 260-262.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 34, 65.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 464, No. 37.

    Bob Miller,
    Pale Triangle (Graphium eurypylus lycaon),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 21 (June 2001)

    Lionel Walter Rothschild,
    A revision of the Papilios of the eastern hemisphere, exclusive of Africa,
    Novitates Zoologicae,
    Volume 2, Part 3 (1895), p. 430, and also Plate 6.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 11 November 2009, 28 December 2023)