Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
(Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail.

This beauty can be found throughout much of the United States, but is especially common in the South.

It can be seen throughout the year in warmer regions and from spring to fall in cooler regions.

It has the distinction of being known as much for its larvae (called orange dogs) as for the adult butterflies.

The larvae can be notorious pests on citrus crops, especially orange trees.

This is useful information for butterfly gardeners that want to attract this giant.

Giant Swallowtail Butterflies are largest species of butterfly in North America. Wingspans can reach 7.5 inches (19 cm). Seeing one is something you remember for a lifetime.

The top side of the butterfly is mostly black, a bright yellow bar stretches across the forewing tip to tip. A second diagonal band on each wings crosses it.

The striking pattern is visible when the wings are resting flat. The color of the under wing is mostly yellow, as a black band crosses the center of the wing and is marked with light blue crescents.

A rusty/red patch sits in the center wing. A orange and blue eyespot sits in the inner hind-wing.

Giant swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail Description:

This species of Swallowtail is black above with yellow wing patches.

It is mostly yellow below, with black veins and margins.

From wing tip to wing tip this large butterfly can measure 3 and 5/8 inches to 5 and 1/2 inches making it our largest swallowtail.


This species frequents various open areas, including parks, orchards and gardens.


A long, high, lilting flight pattern characterizes this species of Swallowtail. As with other swallowtails, males patrol in search of females ready to mate.

Males will also visit mud puddles and standing water, taking in moisture and nutrients.

Larvae and host plants:

Various types of citrus trees, especially orange trees, are the principal host for the larvae. Larvae are brown with mottled white patches, especially on the rear end.

At a quick glance, it appears to look like bird droppings. One of nature's defenses against predation.

Nectar plants:

Honeysuckle (Loniceria), azalea (Rhododendron), goldenrod (Solidago), citrus trees (Citrus sinensis).

Milkweed, Lantana, Butterfly Bush, Zinnias, Sunflower ,and many others will attract the Giant.

Be sure to plant larval hosts with your bloomers to insure another crop of Swallowtails in your gardens.

It can often be found in woodland areas and residential gardens.

And don't forget a mud puddle, you may enjoy a Giant Swallowtail congregation at the watering hole so to speak.

Giant Swallowtail and other common butterflies

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