Walk around any city or town in the Philippines, especially on a sunny day, and chances are you will see a Lime Swallowtail!
Unlike other swallowtail butterflies, its hindwings don’t have tails 1. It can be easily found anywhere in the Philippines. And they love calamansi! Not the fruit, but the leaves of the calamansi tree. Adult Lime swallowtails lay their eggs on calamansi trees, or any citrus plants including lemon and orange trees. Once the eggs hatch, their young look like bird poo or tiki/tuko (house gecko) poo! 2
As pretty as this species is (despite bird-poop-like babies), it is regarded as a pest in citrus plantations. Its larvae or caterpillars love citrus leaves so much they can eat almost all the leaves of younger trees 1, and they easily increase in number and spread out quickly 3. All this despite its lifespan of a month! 4.
It found its way to the Philippines from Asia and into Indonesia, as forest was cleared for urban expansion and plantings of citrus trees 5. Its expansion into the Philippines only happened within the last 70 years 3!
Next time you see the Lime Swallowtail, be thankful for calamansi, and always remember the influence agriculture has on biodiversity, and vice-versa!
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- D. Lewis, 2009. Lime Swallowtail Papilio demoleus Linnaeus (Insecta: Lipidoptera: Papilionidae) or https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in786
- A. Talavera et al. Philippine Lepidoptera. https://philippinelepidopt.wixsite.com/butterflies/copy-of-papilionidae-swallowtails (Last accessed June 1, 2019).
- M. Wiemers, 2012. First record of the Lime Swallowtail Papilio demoleus Linnaeus, 1758 (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae) in Europe.
- M. Hoang, 2015. Studies on some aspects of the biology and ecology of Citrus butterfly Papilio demoleus (Papilionidae: Lepidoptera) on citrus in Vietnam.J. Nielsen, 2017. Additional characters for separating adults of Papilio demoleus sthenelus W.S. Macleay, 1826 (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) from P. demoleus L. subspeces of biosecurity concern to Australia.