Papilio demodocus, also known as the citrus swallowtail, is a large swallowtail butterfly common to sub-Saharan Africa. After hatching from their egg, the caterpillar feeds on a few leaves on citrus trees before pupation.
Citrus swallowtails pass through approximately three generations per year. Eggs are laid singly on citrus tree leaves.
Female butterflies lay their eggs singly on citrus leaves. After about six days, the egg hatches into an immature larva.
The immature larvae are black, yellow, and white with spikes. Their coloration provides effective camouflage, as they resemble bird droppings. They grow to a length of 10 or 15 mm before changing into mature larvae.
Mature larvae are green with white or pink markings and eyespots. They grow to a maximum length of about 45 mm.
Mature caterpillars lack the camouflage of their immature state. Instead, when threatened by a bird or other predator, they produce a forked, orange-coloured organ known as an osmeterium. The organ emits a strong smell which acts as a discouragement to the predator.
Adult butterflies have black and yellow markings with red and blue eyespots. Female butterflies tend to be larger than males.
- Papilio demodocus Esper, 1799
- Papilio demoleus Linnaeus, 1758
- Papilio erithonioides Grose-Smith, 1891
- Papilio grosesmithi Rothschild, 1926
- Papilio morondavana Grose-Smith, 1891
- Papilio demodocus demodocus (Sub-Saharan Africa)
- Papilio demodocus bennetti Dixey, 1898 (Socotra)
Courtship is more or less the same in all butterflies. Once a female enters the visual field of a male, the male moves quickly to hover over her so that his wings beat rapidly. The female is then induced to land so that the male can attempt to mate with her. There are various ways in which the male entices the female, including visual, olfactory, tactile, and auditory cues. Of particular interest is the use of olfactory cues. Male butterflies produce pheromones from different structures, such as that of the anal fold of the hind wing, that cause the females to perform the appropriate response. Sometimes, however, females choose to reject a male’s attempt at mating, usually due to the fact that she has already mated with a different male. She can do so by either avoiding his approach or, if she lands, she will flap her wings quickly and deliberately all while raising her abdomen until the male flies away. In this way, courtship is primarily a female’s choice. Furthermore, it has been observed that females also produce a pheromone that aids males in determining whether a female has already mated or not.
This species primarily mates via the lek system,in which there are aggregations of males on small mating territories. When the female reaches the lek, she changes her behavior so that she helps the males to detect her by performing a long and obvious circular flight. The species operates on a polygynous (polygyny) system in which one male has the ability to mate with several females in one breeding season. In Papilio glaucus, that which is of the same genus of this species, the lack of male-male competition, strong rapid flight, dispersed abundant food, and oviposition sights helped to support the idea of mating system based on polygyny. The females are prevented from mating with other males when the male emits a sphragis,which prevents other males from mating with the female, ensuring that only the sperm from this male fertilizes the eggs. The physical act of copulation takes between one half hour to two hours. During this time, the male spermatophore is transferred to the female’s bursa. The spermatophore is then absorbed and its nutrient (protein) contents are given to the female’s eggs as a food source. For this reason, the male makes an indirect investment to his offspring, given that he offers them a food source,being beneficial to the female given that she risks less of her own well-being to bear her offspring. Therefore, a male is considered more fit with a larger ejaculation, given that he allows his offspring to feed so that his own genes may be passed on efficiently.
Mistakes and Diversity
Mate assessment involves the discrimination of conspecifics, so that mating requires that males and females recognize and mate with individuals of the appropriate sex and species, as indicated by the appropriate chemical and visual cues that are made. Sometimes, homosexual copulation has been seen in addition to two males upon one female. Very rarely do females accept a mate from a different species or genus, and if they do, it is usually because they are too immature to realize the correct sexual cues of males from their own species. However, these “incorrect” matings do occur so that there is diversity in the species, as seen through the different larval patterns that have evolved in the species, depending on the type of plant the eggs are laid upon.
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- Afrotropical Butterflies: File C – Papilionidae - Tribe Papilionini
- Papilio, Site of Markku Savela
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