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Papilio aristodemus ponceanus
Copyright by: Scott Sutherland, 2021. In habitat in Key Largo.
Large butterfly with a wingspan up to 4-5/8 inches. The upperside of the wings is brown, with a row of dull yellow spots along the margin and a broad yellow band across the middle. The underside is yellow, with brown markings and a broad blue- and rust-colored patch in the middle of the hindwing. The blackish "tails" are straight-edged and bordered with yellow. Females are usually larger than males; males have bright yellow tips on their antennae. The caterpillar is large, with three large cream or yellow patches along the sides, one white spot at the posterior end, and rows of blue spots; it resembles a lizard dropping. The pupa is brown with a bark-like pattern.
North Key Largo, Biscayne National Park
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Adults present mid-May to mid-September; caterpillars present mid-May to mid-June.
Tropical hardwood hammocks.
One brood per year. The spherical, light or dark green eggs are laid singly on the tops of very young host plant leaves. Caterpillars form pupae that can stay dormant for up to two years; emergence of adults is triggered by rainfall.
Typically flies within three to four feet of ground, but males may patrol treetops searching for females. Males have a rapid, darting flight; females flutter. They can stop in mid-air and fly backwards to avoid predators. The osmeterium (a glandular structure that can be extended out from the first thoracic segment) resembles a forked tongue and is white. It emits a noxious odor to deter predators.
Native larval host plants include members of the citrus family (Rutaceae), such as common torchwood (Amyris elemifera), wild-lime (Zanthoxaylum fagara), and several nonnative citrus species in South Florida and the native hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) in North and Central Florida. Nectar plants include the native shiny-leaved wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) and the nonnative guava (Psidium guajava).