Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes

Giant Swallowtail

Papilio cresphontes

Above: The largest Wisconsin butterfly with a wingspan that sometimes exceeds 5 inches. The upper wings are brownish with two bold yellow lines of spots that cross near the apex of the front wing, forming an “x”. Below: yellow with black veins and borders. The tail is spoon like with a yellow spot that can be seen from above or below.

Woodlands and open areas near woodlands, where the larval host plant, Prickly Ash, is found.

Overwintering Strategy:   Chrysalis

Two broods; early May and then in late July and August. This species strays northward occasionally. Ferge (2002) lists this species as widespread, but it is not clear that colonies of this species, especially farther north, are able to survive severe winters, and populations, rather than permanent residents, may periodically become repopulated from the south.

Caterpillar Host Plants:
Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) and Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata)

The Giant Swallowtail is an uncommon stray in most parts of Wisconsin.

Overwintering Strategy

Two-way migration: Adult migrates from Wisconsin to Central Mexico
Small migration: Adult migrates from Wisconsin to southern US
Immigrant: Adult migrates into Wisconsin from warmer areas and don't fly south in winter
Adult Butterfly: Hibernates overwinter as an adult butterfly
Eggs: Eggs laid on stems, twigs or foot plants overwinter in diapause
Caterpillar: Caterpillars make nests on the base of plants and hibernate until spring
Chrysalis: Caterpillars shed their last skin, form a chrysalis and enter diapause.

For more information, read: Where Do Butterflies Go In Winter?

Further Information:   

 Design A Butterfly Garden
 Take The Butterfly Quiz
 Monarch Life Cycle
 Butterflies and Moths of North America
 Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Assn (NABA)
 The Butterfly Site

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