Papilio fuscus Goeze, 1779
Fuscous Swallowtail
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.

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

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
late instar
(Photo copyright: Peter Samson)

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

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

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

    Papilio fuscus
    (Photo: courtesy of Paul Kay)

    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, 28 December 2023)