All the Facts & Info You Need To Know About Scarlet Swallowtail

Scarlet Swallowtail

All the Facts & Info You Need To Know About Scarlet Swallowtail




Learn about the morphology of this beautiful butterfly. Learn about its Life cycle, Mimicry, and hostplant preferences.

Learn about the Papilio polytes. Also learn about the scarlet swallowtail’s hostplant preferences. Get a closer look at this beautiful butterfly.

Learn about its cryptic beauty in our detailed article. And be sure to check out the photo gallery to see this magnificent insect in its natural habitat.

Papilio Polytes Morphology

Female Papilio polytes exhibits Batesian mimicry, a trait only found in females of the same species.

scarlet swallowtail

Its mimicry locus H contains a dimorphic Mendelian’supergene’ containing three genes, including Wnt1.

These genes have similar expression profiles in both the male and female Papilio butterflies.

The Papilio polytes morphological study was conducted by dissecting hindwings from males and females from a single female.

The hindwings were photographed under a digital microscope (VH-5500SP1344, Keyence). Images were captured using the image analysis software Image J49.

The proportion of pattern area in the female’s posterior wing and that of the male’s hindwing were calculated using the ratio of black to white.

The larvae of Papilio polytes are green in color, with conspicuous sutures and primary setae. The larva feeds on leaves of the host plant, and develops in five instars.

The pupa lasts for fourteen to twenty days. The adult Scarlet Swallowtail morphology includes a detailed description of its life cycle and where it lives.

scarlet swallowtail

Female Papilio polytes have distinct wing colouration patterns, and they also have different wing patterning.

Females lay their eggs singly near the edges of host plants, while males do so in clusters.

Lime swallowtail larvae have broad transverse off-white bands, additional rows of fleshy spines on the thorax, and a brown glossy head.

Papilio polytes’ wings are made up of two separate layers: the upper and lower laminas. The lower lamina is more or less flat, whereas the upper lamina is highly structured.

The upper lamina, called abwing lamina, faces the wing substrate. While the wing of P. xuthus is orange and cream, the upper lamina is black.

scarlet swallowtail

Adult female Papilio polytes live six to eight days, while males live three to four days. Adult males are mimetic, allowing for shorter life spans, which also helps reduce predation.

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Females are more vulnerable to predation, and their abdomens are much larger. They also tend to attack more often than males. Aside from this, females also have a longer lifespan.

Hostplant Preferences

The hostplant preferences of the Scarlet Swallowtail are not learned but rather innate.

scarlet swallowtail

In a study, the larvae and adults of this moth preferred P. misera to P. suberosa, as well as the shoots of these two plants.

Here are a few hostplants for this species and their preferences. Listed below are the common plants they will feed on.

But don’t worry, they will also eat a wide variety of plants, including your own! The Painted Lady has a wide range of hostplants. The Blueweed, for example, is a polyphagous comma.

The Scarlet Swallowtail will also feed on Echium vulgaris and Borage. Those are not the only hostplants that Scarlet Swallowtails prefer.

scarlet swallowtail

You can also plant these plants in containers to attract the butterflies. This species is also attracted to the leaves and flowers of plants like lilies, sunflowers, and ferns.

The tulip tree and black cherry are excellent hosts for the Tiger Swallowtail. These butterflies lay eggs on tulip trees and black cherry.

Other plants they like include sweet bay magnolia and ironwood. While the Giant Swallowtail will feed on tulips, gulf fritillary and tiger swallowtails will prefer lilacs and violets.

While determining hostplant preferences is tricky, you should try to offer as many varieties as possible. This way, you will increase your chances of attracting a particular species.

Just be aware that the caterpillars are very picky. They may like one type of plant, while preferring another in another region.

scarlet swallowtail

As the soil and pH levels change, the preferred plant may differ from garden to garden.

That is why it is important to know the preferences of the Scarlet Swallowtail so that you can attract it.

This moth is also called the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, or Papilio troilus. Both adults have wingspans of approximately 5.5 cm.

The adult is primarily black or brown with a pale yellow lateral line. The forewing has a cream-colored oval spot on its forewing. The hindwing is also spotted with six blue dots.

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The larvae of the Florida White have a bright orange spot near the base of the wings.


The ability to mimic other butterflies may have evolved from gene flipping, but mimicry may also have consequences for standard females.

scarlet swallowtail

Scientists from the University of Chicago have studied the genetic data of several species of swallowtails to determine whether the traits are related or not.

This has been called “doublesex mimicry” and may have occurred in some species as early as the 18th century.

Until recently, scientists had no idea what factors might cause mimicry. The study was based on the hypothesis that some animals evolve similar appearances in order to avoid extinction.

To understand this concept, we first need to define mimicry. What is mimicry? Mimicry occurs when an animal arose with similar characteristics to another species.

scarlet swallowtail

Sometimes mimicry may be caused by natural selection, which is why monarch butterflies are poisonous.

The viceroy butterfly, for example, looks like a monarch butterfly, but is not poisonous. The similarity between the two species may cause predators to avoid the viceroy butterfly.

The same principle applies to plant mimicry. While the latter method benefits the signal receiver, Mullerian mimicry benefits both parties.

The model, however, gets protection from the mimic as the latter avoids predation.

And both species gain in terms of reproduction. Hence, mimicry is considered a mutualistic relationship between two species.

If both the model and the mimic are able to imitate each other successfully, the species may be able to survive.

scarlet swallowtail

The Pipevine butterfly is less common. Pipevine butterfly mimics include the Red-spotted Purple and Black and Spicebush swallowtails.

However, the Pipevine butterfly is largely absent from the New Jersey Coastal Plain. It is also poisonous.

Its poisonous sting is caused by Aristolochic acid. Its habitat is not native to the Coastal Plain. If you spot one, be sure to avoid it!

Another venomous snake is the coral snake. This snake lives in southeastern states and has bands of yellow, black, and red.

It mimics a venomous snake by displaying the same coloration patterns. Interestingly, though, the coral snake is venomous.

The coloration of a coral snake is similar to that of a gopher snake, which makes them easy to identify.

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Life Cycle

The life cycle of a Scarlet Swallowtail butterfly is a fascinating process to witness.

The caterpillar lays eggs before it molts and emerges as an adult butterfly. Its wingspan can reach three inches.

scarlet swallowtail

During the pupa stage, it spends nine to eleven days growing and developing its wings.

The adult butterfly lays eggs when conditions are right. This process is very detailed, so make sure you have the time to observe it in person.

The scarlet swallowtail caterpillar feeds on many types of plants, but most of them depend on only one plant family.

This is due to the fact that these plants contain aristolochic acid, which helps to protect the caterpillar from predators.

Parnassius smintheus, for example, feeds on the leaves of the aristolochiaceae plant. The caterpillars then pupate and remain dormant until spring.

scarlet swallowtail

The female Scarlet Swallowtail butterfly is similar to the male, but has broader wings.

The forewing is more pronounced and is characterized by a reddish tongue-like substance called osmeterium.

The scarlet Mormon butterfly is native to the Philippines, but it can also be found in neighboring countries.

It prefers light-wooded terrain with citrus trees. The flight time of the Scarlet Swallowtail is approximately nine to ten days.

The Scarlet Swallowtail butterfly’s life cycle is based on its diet of fennel, dill, and fennel. The male has large yellow spots on his or her wings, and females have small ones.

The female’s caterpillar will feed on these plants and will lay its eggs on them as well.

Its caterpillar will feed on both the female and male caterpillars, but the female will eat more eggs.






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