Papilio epiphorbas — “Teardrop swallowtail”

Papilio epiphorpbas, the “teardrop swallowtail”, is a swallowtail endemic to the island of  Madagascar (Africa). While little is known about this species and obtaining livestock may be hard,  raising them is possible, though the lack of concrete information may make it  challenging.

Adult female Papilio epiphorbas

  • Difficulty rating: 7/10  (Harder to breed due to lack of information)
  • Host plants: Rutaceae – There are hardly any referenced to the natural host plant, which is speculated to be Vepris sp. – in captivity they feed on  Choisya, and Citrus but with a low succes rate
  •  Natural range:  Madagascar only (endemic)
  • Polyphagous:   Yes but probably only Rutaceae
  • Generations: Seems to be multivoltine in captivity (continuous breeding). May or may not avoid the dry season in the wild
  • Family: Papilionidae (swallowtails)
  • Pupation:  Chrysalis 
  • Prefered climate: Afrotropical (prefers warm and humid)
  • Special notes: This species is probably not hard to breed if you have the right host plant and conditions, but the lack of information makes this more difficult
  • Estimated wingspan: 80 – 100mm (on the smaller side)

Papilio epiphorbas, the teardrop swallowtail, is a swallowtail butterfly that is endemic to the island of Madagascar. Because of their obscure and endemic  nature, they are not commonly bred or reared. While literature is lacking, they are rumoured to feed on Vepris (Rutaceae – unconfirmed). In captivity they will accept Citrus or Choisya, though one may experience significant losses when rearing them on these host plants – some individuals will still survive. Perhaps, by selecting these individuals, one may produce a F2 generation that has adapted better to Choisya or Citrus, making them easier to breed.

The beautiful final instar larva of Papilio epiphorbas

The larvae are best raised freely on the host plant, or as alternative, in bottled cuttings of host plant. Interestingly however this species seems to do well in plastic boxes too – something that is Papilionidae larvae do not commonly tolerate, as they are prone to getting infected and sick when reared in plastic boxes. Papilio epiphorbas seems to be an exception to this rule. The larvae are beautiful and in the final instar their thorax is decorated by bright pink dots and yellow ocelli; and in the skin fold between their thorax and abdominal segments they have a bright blue skin flap that is revealed when the larvae assume their threat pose.

Female Papilio epiphorbas

The butterflies are reported to pair and oviposit easily, if one has a greenhouse-like setup for butterflies. Experimenting with host plants should be worthwhile, since not a lot is known about the host plants of Papilio epiphorbas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinal instar larva of Papilio epiphorbas

After feeding for about 1.5 month (depending on temperature) on the host plant, the larvae will spin a girdle and pupate against a surface (like many Papilionidae do). The pupae will hatch in about 3 to 4 weeks time (once again depending on temperature).

The pupa of Papilio epiphorbas

All in all, Papilio epiphorbas is a pretty fun and obscure species from Madagascar, and an excellent opportunity to breed something unique.

Female of Papilio epiphorbas


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