N A T U R K U N D L I C H E S   I N F O R M A T I O N S S Y S T E M

Papilio (Princeps) demoleus Linné, 1758

(zoological nomenclature: valid name, available)

General information:

Papilio demoleus Linné, 1758: 464.
Type locality: Asia
Type: Lectotype : "Demoleus [beta]" [by Aurivillius], on a black-edged label, [drawer labelled] "Demoleus [beta], Mus. Gust. Adolph." [by Thunberg], "Papilio Demoleus, Auriv. 1881" [by Aurivillius] on a red-edged label, "Uppsala Univ. Zool. Mus., Linnésamlingen nr. 1903, Papilio demoleus" (Lectotype designated by Honey & Scoble 2001: 317-318), in coll. UZIU, Uppsala (Häuser et al. 2005).

Synonyms, misspellings, wrong determinations, etc.:
Papilio demoleus libanius Fruhstorfer, 1908. Taiwan. Junior subjective synonym of Papilio demoleus demoleus Linné, 1758.
Papilio demoleus flavosignatus Heydemann, 1954. Afghanistan. Junior subjective synonym of Papilio demoleus demoleus Linné, 1758.
Papilio erithonius malayanus Wallace, 1865. southern Indochina, Malayan peninsula, Indonesia, Philippines. Subspecies.
Papilio demoleus novoguineensis Rothschild, 1908 (?). Papua New Guinea. Subspecies.
Papilio demoleus sthenelinus Rothschild, 1895. Alor and Flores. Subspecies.
Papilio demoleus sthenelus MacLeay, 1826. Australia and Sumba. Subspecies.
Papilio demoleus pictus Fruhstorfer, 1898. Sumba. Junior subjective synonym of Papilio demoleus sthenelus MacLeay, 1826.

Common Lime Butterfly, Lemon Butterfly, Lime Swallowtail, Small Citrus Butterfly, Chequered Swallowtail, Dingy Swallowtail, Citrus Swallowtail


P. demoleus malayanus : Indonesia, Bali, Kuta, Legian Beach, 1995.01.14, leg. R. & G. Lettner, coll. Michael Kurz P. demoleus malayanus underside: Indonesia, Bali, Kuta, Legian Beach, 1995.01.14, leg. R. & G. Lettner, coll. Michael Kurz    
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view

Description of adults: (Bingham 1907): Wingspan 55 - 80 mm. ". Upperside black. Fore wing: base below cell and basal half of latter so irrorated with yellow scales as to form more or less complete transverse dotted lines, two outwardly oblique yellow spots in cell and a curved spot at its upper apex; a spot at base and another beyond it in interspace 8; a discal transverse series of cream-yellow spots irregular in arrangement and size extends from interspace 1a to 8; the series interrupted in interspace 5 and the spot in interspace 7 double; this is followed by a sinuous postdiscal series of spots and an admarginal terminal series of smaller spots. In many specimens between the discal and postdiscal series the black ground-colour is irrorated with yellowish scales. Hind wing: base and an edging that decreases in width along the dorsal margin irrorated with yellow scales; followed by a broad medial yellow irregular band, a sinuous postdiscal series of outwardly emarginate yellow spots and a terminal series of smaller similarly coloured spots as on the fore wing. The inner margin of the medial band is curved inwards, the outer margin is very irregular and uneven; in the cell the band does not reach the apex, but beyond the cell there are one or more cream-yellow spots, and the black groundcolour is irrorated with yellowish scales; finally at the tornal angle there is an oval ochraceous-red spot emarginate on its inner side in the and in both sexes surmounted by a blue lunule; while in interspace 7 between the medial band and the postdiscal spot there is a large ocellus-like spot of the black ground-colour more or less irrorated with blue scales. Underside: ground-colour similar, the cream-coloured markings paler and conspicuously larger. The latter differ from those on the upperside as follows: Fore wing: basal half of cell and base of wing below it with cream-coloured streaks that coalesce at base; irregular ochraceous spots in interspaces 5 to 8 and the discal series of spots complete not interrupted in interspace 5. Hind wing: the black at base of wing and along the dorsal margin centred largely with pale cream-colour; the ocellus in interspace 7, the apex of the cell and the black groundcolour between the medial band and postdiscal markings in interspaces 2-6 centred with ochraceous, margined with blue. Antennas dark reddish brown, touched with ochraceous on the innerside towards the club; head, thorax and abdomen dusky black, the head and thorax anteriorly streaked with cream-yellow ; beneath: the palpi, thorax and abdomen cream-yellow with lateral longitudinal black lines on the last."


The species has a very wide distribution in a number of subspecies from Australia and Sumba (ssp. sthenelus), Flores and Alor (ssp. sthenelinus), Papua-New Guinea (ssp. novoguineensis), Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, southern Myanmar (ssp. malayanus), northern Myanmar, southern China, the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, Iran, the eastern Arabian Peninsula to Syria and SE-Turkey (typical ssp.). Within the last decades, the species has largely extended its range in Indonesia and the Philippines (ssp. malayanus) and the Middle East (typical ssp.) and has meanwhile also been introduced to the Caribbean (Guerrero et al. 2004, Häuser et al. 2005, Morgun & Wiemers 2012). In Europe, the first specimen of ssp. malayanus has been taken in Portugal in 2012 (Morgun & Wiemers 2012).


: India, Kerala, Kadavoor, 2010.06.13      
Picture from: wikimedia commons: Jevan Jose (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Detailed view

"The widespread range of Papilio demoleus indicates the butterfly´s tolerance and adaptation to diverse habitats. It is to be found in savannahs, fallow lands, gardens, evergreen and semi-evergreen forests and shows a preference for stream and riverbeds. In India, it is mostly found in the plains but can be found on the hills of peninsular India and up to 7000 feet in the Himalayas. It is common in urban gardens and may also be encountered in wooded country. The butterfly is also a very successful invader, its spread appearing to be due to its strong flight, increase in urbanisation and agricultural land use that opens up new areas for dispersal, and greater availability of foodplants" (wikipedia 2014).

"This butterfly is an avid mud-puddler and visitor of flowers. It basks with its wings held wide open on tufts of grass, herbs and generally keeps within a metre above the ground, even on cloudy days. It relies on its quick flight for escape. It is an interesting butterfly in that it has a number of modes of flight. In the cool of the morning, the flight is slow considering that it is an edible and unprotected swallowtail. As the day progresses, it flies fast, straight and low. In the hotter part of the day, it may be found settling on damp patches where it will remain motionless, except for an occasional flutter of wings, if not disturbed. It is also a frequent visitor of flowers in gardens, where it shows a preference for flowers of smaller herbs rather than larger plants such as the ubiquitous Lantana with its plentiful blooms. It can be found swarming in the groves of its foodplants. Research on freshly emerged imagines of Papilio demoleus showed that they have an inborn or spontaneous preference while feeding for blue and purple colours while the yellow, yellowish-green, green and blue-green colours are completely neglected" (wikipedia 2014).

The number of generations of Papilio demoleus is dependent upon temperature - near the equator, nine generations have been recorded, while in warm temperate China, five generations have been recorded. In the ideal conditions of a laboratory, a generation has been recorded to take place in just over 30 days. The average time for one generation of Papilio demoleus to mature in the field ranges from 26 to 59 days. In cold climates, the lime butterfly is known to pass the winter as pupae. Typically, the butterfly undergoes five instars as a caterpillar" (wikipedia 2014). "The adults fly in every month but are particularly abundant during and after the monsoons" (wikipedia 2014).

Parasitism and predation: "In Saudi Arabia, the highest mortality rate was found to be in larvae and pupae in cultivated populations due to a bacterium of the genus Bacillus. In addition, eggs and larvae were heavily predated upon by two unidentified species of spiders which were abundant on citrus trees. In India, the following braconid wasp parasitoids are known to parasitize Papilio demoleus larvae:
Apanteles spp. including Apanteles papilionis.
Bracon hebetor.
In Thailand, a number of organisms have been recorded attacking immature stages of Papilio demoleus:
Egg parasites
Ooencyrtus malayensis Ferriere (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae)
Tetrastichus sp. (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).
Larval stage
Erycia nymphalidophaga Baronoff (Diptera: Tachinidae) (parasite).
Cantheconidea furcellata (Wolff) (Pentatomidae, predator).
Other natural enemies of larvae included reduviid bugs; birds; spiders; sphecid wasps; and chameleons.
Pupal parasites
Brachymeria sp. (Hymenoptera: Chalcididae)
Pteromalus puparum Linnaeus (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae).
In Jamaica, an encyrtid egg parasitoid and a chalcidoid parasitoid have been reported" (wikipedia 2014).

Stages in development:

second instar: without data third instar: India, Andhra Pradesh, Medak district, Narsapur, 2009.07.12 fourth instar: without data  
Picture from: wikimedia commons: Viren Vaz (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Detailed view
Picture from: wikimedia commons: J.M. Garg (CC BY 3.0)
Detailed view
Picture from: wikimedia commons: Viren Vaz (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Detailed view

Egg. "The female butterfly goes from plant to plant, laying a single egg at a time on top of a leaf which it holds onto with its legs, and flies off as soon as the egg is laid. The egg is round, light yellowish in colour, flattened at the base, smooth-surfaced and about 1.5 mm in height. Fertile eggs develop a small red mark at the apex" (wikipedia 2014).

Larva. The first two instars resemble a birds-dropping and are dark brown with orange dots, a large white spot at the dorsum and a smaller white spot each laterally near the anal end. They also bear two rows of sub-dorsal fleshy spines. From the third instar on, the larva becomes more green. The last instars are predominantly green, with two whitish-orange-dark brown mixed cross-stripes on the back of the inflated thorax, yellowish-white lateral stripes and two short protuberances on the back near the anal end. The newly hatched caterpillar stays in the middle of the upperside of the leaf.
Following wikipedia (2014), the larvae feed on various species of Rutaceae throughout most of the species´ range, whereas in Australia and Papua New Guinea, they also feed on Fabaceae. In detail, the following species of foodplants have been reported: Rutaceae: Citrus aurantifolia, C. grandis, C. limon, C. sinensis, Atalanta racemosa, Glycosmis pentaphylla, Glycosmis arborea, Ruta graveolens, Aegle marmelos, Murraya koenigii, Chloroxylon swietenia, Ziziphus mauritiana, Acronychia pedunculata; Fabaceae: Cullen australasicum, C. badocanum, C. balsamicum, C. cinereum, C. patens, C. pustulatum, C. tenax, C. leucanthum, Psoralea pinnata.

Pupa. "The pupa, which is rugose, stout and 30 mm in length, has two projections to the front on its head and also one on its thorax" (wikipedia 2014). It has a sculptured surface. "The pupa is dimorphic with regards to colour, with the colour developing according to the prevalent colour and texture in the background. The green morph, which is found amongst green vegetation and smoother textures, is light green and unmarked or with yellow dorsal markings. When situated among brown or dry objects, the pupa tend to turn light grey-brown to pink-brown and develop cryptic dark brown and black striation" (wikipedia 2014).


genitalia (redrawn from Smith & Vane-Wright 2008)      
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view

genitalia. Uncus well developed, hook-like curved, tapering to apex; valvae broad triangle-shaped, with rounded apex, upper margin emarginate; harpe well sclerotized, bow-like, with numerous small teeth; penis bowed, short and massive.


P. demoleus malayanus : Indonesia, Bali, Kuta, Legian Beach, 1995.01.14, leg. R. & G. Lettner, coll. Michael Kurz P. demodocus : Kenya, 45 km south of Mombasa, near Diani, 1994.01.04, leg. R. & G. Lettner, coll. Michael Kurz P. demoleus malayanus underside: Indonesia, Bali, Kuta, Legian Beach, 1995.01.14, leg. R. & G. Lettner, coll. Michael Kurz P. demodocus underside: Kenya, 45 km south of Mombasa, near Diani, 1994.01.04, leg. R. & G. Lettner, coll. Michael Kurz
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view
Picture from: Kurz Michael
Detailed view

The species is very similar to the mostly African Papilio demodocus Esper, [1798], although an overlapping of distribution may occur only in Saudi Arabia to present knowledge. On the average, P. demodocus is distinctly larger than P. demoleus. On the upperside, P. demoleus has broader transverse yellow bands, whereas on the hindwing underside, the yellow colouration is much more extended in P. demoleus than in P. demodocus. Other similar species occur only in central Africa and Madagascar, but all of these bear a more or less prominent tail on the hindwing.

Phylogeny: "Research into the biogeography, phylogeny, and analysis of vicariance relationships dating back to the Cretaceous, of the "lime butterfly" or "demoleus" group, suggest that the group of lime swallowtails diversified in Malagasy in the middle Miocene" (wikipedia 2014, Zakharov et al. 2004). Besides P. demoleus and P. demodocus, the group comprises the three Malagassy species Papilio erithonioides Grose-Smith, 1891, Papilio morondavana Grose-Smith, 1891 and Papilio grosesmithi Rothschild, 1926 (see Smith & Vane-Wright 2008).

Importance for humans:

"The Lime Butterfly is an economic pest on many cultivated citrus species in India, Pakistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Due to its history of successful dispersal and range extension, the Lime Butterfly is likely to spread from its original point of introduction in Hispaniola in the Caribbean to neighbouring Florida, Central America and South America. Due to its capability for rapid population growth under favourable circumstances and its having been recorded to have five generations in a year in temperate regions of China, it is considered a serious potential threat. The caterpillars can completely defoliate young citrus trees (below 2 feet) and devastate citrus nurseries. In mature trees, caterpillars may prefer young leaves and leaf flush.
Hand-picking of caterpillars and spraying with Endosulfan 35 EC (2 ml/10 litres of water) were the recommended means of pest control by Indian government agencies and agricultural colleges, however, Endosulfan has since been banned by the Supreme Court of India" (wikipedia 2014).

Worth knowing:


Bingham, C. T. 1907. Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Butterflies - Vol. II. Taylor & Francis, London, 480 pp., 20 pl.
Guerrero, K. A., D. Veloz, S. Lyn Boyce & B. D. Farrell 2004. First New World Documentation of an Old World Citrus Pest, the Lime Swallowtail Papilio demoleus (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae), in the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola). American Entomologist 50 (4): 227-229.
Häuser, C. L., J. Holstein & A. Steiner 2005. The Global Butterfly Information System. http://www.globis.insects-online.de. Last updated 14.04.2011 [online 22 May 2014].
Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae, Ed. X. (Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.) Holmiae. Systema Nat. ed. 10 i-ii + 1-824.
Morgun, D. V. & M. Wiemers 2012. First record of the Lime Swallowtail Papilio demoleus Linnaeus, 1758 (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae) in Europe. The Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 45: 85-89.
Smith, C. R. & R. I. Vane-Wright 2008. Classification, nomenclature and identification of lime swallowtail butterflies: A post‐cladistic analysis (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Systematics and Biodiversity, 6(2), 175-203.
Wikipedia contributors. Papilio demoleus. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_demoleus [online 22 May 2014].
Zakharov, E. V., C. R. Smith, D. C. Lees, A. Cameron, R. I. Vane-Wright & F. A. H. Sperling 2004. Independent gene phylogenies and morphology demonstrate a Malagasy origin for a wide-ranging group of swallowtail butterflies. Evolution 58: 2763–2782.

Publication data:

Kurz Michael: 2011.07.07
Kurz Michael: 2012.08.03
Kurz Michael: 2014.05.20
Kurz Michael: 2014.05.21
Kurz Michael: 2014.05.22
Kurz Michael: 2014.05.23
Kurz Michael: 2014.06.06
Kurz Michael: 2014.11.05
Kurz Michael: 2014.11.06
Document reviewed by:
not reviewed: 2014.11.06
Document released by:
Kurz Michael: 2014.11.06