Caterpillars of the
World - Colombia
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
subfamily - PAPILIONINAE
Tribe - PAPILIONINI
Rio Claro, Colombia
© Adrian Hoskins
Papilioninae comprises of about 550 species of worldwide
distribution, and includes the Swallowtails, and the Dragontails and
giant Birdwings of south-east Asia.
Heraclides thoas is distributed from
Mexico to Bolivia and Argentina, and occurs as a rare stray in the
southern United States.
species is migratory in nature and found in many different habitats
including tropical rainforest, cloudforest, humid deciduous forest,
orchards and suburban zones at altitudes between sea level and about
eggs are laid singly on leaves and stems of the larval foodplants,
or on nearby plants, along forest edges, roadsides and riverbanks.
The larvae feed primarily on Piper, but
also possibly on Zanthoxylum,
Citrus and Ptelea, although
larvae found on these plants are more likely to be the very closely
young thoas larva is dull in colour,
and similar in appearance to a bird dropping. In common with other
Papilionidae larvae it is equipped with an extrusible forked
appendage - the osmaterium, which is situated behind the head. This
is everted if the larva is molested, and gives off a noxious
pheromone containing isobutyric acid, which is believed to be used
as a defence against ants.
fully grown the larva loses the warty tubercules and becomes pale
green, with extensive areas of white on the thoracic and anal
The adult is black, marked
with broken bands of cream, and has fluted tails on the hindwings. It
is extremely similar in appearance to Heraclides
cresphontes, and can only be distinguished from it with
certainty by examination of the abdominal tip.
H. cresphontes however has a more northerly distribution being
found from Canada to Colombia.
Heraclides thoas, Satipo, Peru
© Adrian Hoskins