Post last updated: August 3rd, 2020
The Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) ranges from southern New England across the northern Great Lakes states, the southern Central Plains, south and southwest in the United States and on through Mexico to Central and South America. Common throughout Florida, it can be seen all year in south Florida.
Deciduous forests, residential gardens and citrus groves.
The upper surface of wings and body is brownish-black with a line of yellow spots going across the wingspan from edge to edge and another “V” shaped line of yellow spots below that line.
The underside of wings is more attractive than the upper wings – pale yellow, veins streaked with black, blue and orange spots. The abdomen is pale yellow.
The average wingspan is 5.5 inches for males and 5.8 inches for females.
The life cycle takes about 2 months. The female lays round, orange-peel colored eggs on the surface of green leaves. The egg stage lasts for 4 to 10 days.
The caterpillar goes through five stages (called instars) over a period of 3 to 4 weeks. Their appearance changes during the stages. This is another caterpillar that looks like a giant blotch of bird droppings — browns, whites, grays — all blending into the branch of citrus trees. It is actually considered a minor pest of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) that can defoliate young, potted citrus plants.
The chrysalis stage lasts 10 to 20 days. Monarchs and the gulf fritillary, attach their chrysalis at only one spot with a silk button whereas swallowtails attach themselves in two places with silk. At the top with a single thread and at the bottom with a button. It’s called a girdle.
As an adult, the Giant Swallowtail will live 6 to 14 days producing 2 or three broods.
WHAT TO PLANT FOR THE GIANT SWALLOWTAIL
Host Plants – Citrus trees, Northern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum P. Mill.), Rue (Ruta graveolens), Wafer Ash or Common Hoptree (Patellae trifoliata).
Nectar Plants — Bouncing Bet or Soap Weed (Saponaria officinalis), Azalea (Ericaceae), Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea), Dame’s Rocket (Ericaceae) [caution: it can be invasive], Goldenrod (Solidago), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata).