Papilio ophidicephalus

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Emperor swallowtail
Papilioophidicephalustransvaalensis van Son, 1939.JPG
P. o. transvaalensis van Son, 1939
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Papilionidae
Genus: Papilio
Species: P. ophidicephalus
Binomial name
Papilio ophidicephalus
Oberthür, 1878[1]
  • Papilio ophidicephalus chirinda var. barnesi van Son, 1939

Papilio ophidicephalus, the emperor swallowtail, is a butterfly of the family Papilionidae. It is found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The wingspan is 90–110 mm in males and 100–120 mm in females. It has two broods, one from August to December and the second from January to April.[2]

The larvae feed on Clausena inqequalis, Calodendrum capense, Citrus species, Clausena anisata, Zanthoxylum capense and other Zanthoxylum species.[1]


Papilio ophidicephalus is a member of the menestheus species group. The members of the clade are:


Listed alphabetically:[1]

  • P. o. ayresi van Son, 1939 (South Africa, Swaziland)
  • P. o. chirinda van Son, 1939 (west-central Mozambique, eastern Zimbabwe)
  • P. o. cottrelli van Son, 1966 (south-central Zambia)
  • P. o. entabeni van Son, 1939 (South Africa: Limpopo Province)
  • P. o. mkuwadzi Gifford, 1961 (south-western Tanzania, northern Malawi, north-eastern Zambia)
  • P. o. niassicola Storace, 1955 (southern and central Malawi)
  • P. o. ophidicephalus Oberthür, 1878 (eastern Kenya, Tanzania, north-eastern Zambia, south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • P. o. phalusco Suffert, 1904 (South Africa)
  • P. o. transvaalensis van Son, 1939 (South Africa: Limpopo Province)
  • P. o. zuluensis van Son, 1939 (South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal to the north-east)


  1. ^ a b c Papilio at Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and Some Other Life Forms
  2. ^ Woodhall, Steve (2005). Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik. ISBN 978-1-86872-724-7. 
  • Carcasson, R.H., 1960, "The Swallowtail Butterflies of East Africa (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae)". Journal of the East Africa Natural History Society pdf Key to East Africa members of the species group, diagnostic and other notes and figures. (Permission to host granted by The East Africa Natural History Society)
  • Collins, N. Mark; Morris, Michael G. (1985). Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: The IUCN Red Data Book. Gland & Cambridge: IUCN. ISBN 978-2-88032-603-6 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library. 
  • Storace, L.,1955 Su alcune Papilionidae Africane, con descrizioni di nuove forme (Lepidoptera, Diurna). Memorie della Societa Entomologica Italiana 33:120-137.

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