Papilionidae (Swallowtails)



Papilionidae, a relatively small family with about 580 recognized species, is still one of the most remarkable butterfly families. For instance, they  are the largest butterflies of the world, including the great birdwings like Ornithoptera and others, which may have a wingspan of over 20cm, sometimes even reaching 30cm as is the case with some females of Ornithoptera (O.alexandrae for instance), effectively making them one of the largest insects in the world, and most sought-after species of butterfly. They are also known for their diversity and beauty, from the common native swallowtails which are appreciated by many, to the extremely large tropical species which may be mistaken for birds in flight.

A unique trait of them is an osmateria, an organ that can be protruded from behind the head  of the caterpillars, that emits a dirty odor, often resembling the smell of vomit in some species.  This scares away parasitoids and predators alike, making the larvae unappealing. Butyric acid is often the main compound responsible for this. Another characteristic are the prominent tails in in the hindwings of the adult, though these are not present in the majority of Papilionidae, it’s still a remarkable trait some of them have evolved. Some groups have evolved to feed on Aristolochia, sequestering the toxins of this poisonous plant inside their bodies, making the caterpillars and adults poisonous aswell.

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The aim of this website is to provide information about many species of moths and butterflies around the world, with a slight focus on rearing them in captivity.

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