Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Papilio demoleus
(chequered swallowtail)



Papilio demoleus (chequered swallowtail)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Papilio demoleus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • chequered swallowtail
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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Dorsally, wings black with large yellow markings; main markings form an irregular broken bar running from the apex of the forewing to the mid-dorsum on the hindwing. In tornal angle of hindwing is a red and blue eye-like marking.
CaptionDorsally, wings black with large yellow markings; main markings form an irregular broken bar running from the apex of the forewing to the mid-dorsum on the hindwing. In tornal angle of hindwing is a red and blue eye-like marking.
Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Dorsally, wings black with large yellow markings; main markings form an irregular broken bar running from the apex of the forewing to the mid-dorsum on the hindwing. In tornal angle of hindwing is a red and blue eye-like marking.
AdultDorsally, wings black with large yellow markings; main markings form an irregular broken bar running from the apex of the forewing to the mid-dorsum on the hindwing. In tornal angle of hindwing is a red and blue eye-like marking.©A.R. Pittaway


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Papilio demoleus Linnaeus, 1758

Preferred Common Name

  • chequered swallowtail

Other Scientific Names

  • Orpheides erithonius (Moore)
  • Papilio demoleus f. demoleinus Jordan
  • Papilio epius Fabricius
  • Papilio erithonius Cramer
  • Papilio erithonius var. demoleinus Oberthür
  • Princeps demoleus Linnaeus

International Common Names

  • English: citrus dog; lemon butterfly; lemon caterpillar; lime butterfly; lime swallowtail; orange butterfly
  • Chinese: Damo Fengde

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Indischer Citrus-Schwalbenschwanz

EPPO code

  • PAPIDE (Papilio demoleus)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Lepidoptera
  •                         Family: Papilionidae
  •                             Genus: Papilio
  •                                 Species: Papilio demoleus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Papilio demoleus was first described by Linnaeus in 1758 under that genus. Some modern authors place this species in the genus Princeps, but this taxon should be used as a subgenus. A number of poorly differentiated subspecies are recognized, namely Papilio demoleus demoleus Linnaeus (Middle East and southern Asia; China), P. d. malayanus Wallace (South-East Asia), P. d. novoguineensis Rothschild (New Guinea), P. d. libanius Fruhstorfer (Taiwan) and P. d. sthenelus Macleay (Australia). The subspecies from Australia and New Guinea are sometimes accorded full specific status due to their divergent ecology and larval morphology.

This species is replaced in the Afrotropical region (including southern Oman, Yemen and southwestern Saudi Arabia) by the very similar P. demodocus Esper, 1798 (Larsen, l983; Pittaway, l985).


Top of page Eggs

Eggs are pale yellow and spherical (1 mm), but become dark as the larva develops within.


Newly hatched larvae (2.5 mm) are black or dark brown with a dorsal white saddle-like mark, and are spiny. These spines disappear as the larva grows, apart from the anterior and posterior pair. Diffuse orange lateral patches and small blue spots develop as size increases, with the head and true legs becoming orange.

Mature larvae (33 mm) are very different. The dorsal surface is a smooth, rich velvet green while the ventral surface is greyish-white. These two areas are separated by a brilliant milky-white lower lateral band. Segment 3 bears dorsally a transverse white and brown bar with eye-like spots at either end, and the green area of segment 5 is bordered anteriorly by a narrow curved black line. Segments 7 and 8 bear laterally a fragmented diagonal yellow-brown and white bar (this may be absent in some individuals), and there is a patch of the same colour on segment 9. The osmeterium is flesh-coloured; the true legs and head are orange.

It should be noted that the Australasian subspecies differ in both markings and coloration (Common and Waterhouse, 1981).


Pupae are slightly concave dorsally (this differs from P. polytes), with a pair of lateral anterior projections and a short dorsal thoracic projection. They are formed under leaves or on twigs near the feeding site and may be either brown or green depending on the colour of the substrate.


The butterflies (65-110 mm) are unmistakeable. Dorsally, the wings are black with large yellow markings and a dusting of fine yellow scales. The main yellow markings form an irregular broken bar running from the apex of the forewing to the mid-dorsum on the hindwing, and there is a series of yellow submarginal spots on both wings. In the tornal angle of the hindwing there is a red and blue eye-like marking; in the female this eye spot contains a large black circular area. The ventral surface is mainly yellow with black markings, with a series of reddish post-discal bars on the hindwing. Both thorax and abdomen are yellow laterally, and black dorsally and ventrally. Unlike most swallowtails, the hindwings carry no tails.


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The distribution map includes records based on specimens of P. demoleus from the collection in the Natural History Museum (London, UK): dates of collection are noted in the list of countries (NHM, various dates).

P. demoleus was not recorded from Kalimantan (southern Borneo), Timor or Sulawesi by Common and Waterhouse (198l), even though citrus is widely cultivated there. They also stated that this butterfly was absent from the Philippines and Sumatra (Indonesia); however, Corbet and Pendlebury (1992) recorded it from these last two areas. Jumalon (1969) had also recorded it from the Philippines much earlier. It has recently colonized Sarawak (Wan, 1970), Java (Matsumoto and Woro Noerdjito, 1996), Borneo (including Indonesian Kalimantan) and Bali, Indonesia (Matsumoto, 2002). Records from Sabah (Anon., 1962) require further investigation because this species appears to be extending its range. Vagrants have occurred sporadically on various islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan (Matsuka, 2003).

In March 2004 P. demoleus was discovered in the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in an area commonly known as 'Hoyo Azul' (18°33.528'N, 68°26.807'W) located in the municipality of El Veron, Higuey Province. This was the first New World documentation of this Old World citrus pest (Guerrero et al., 2004). The specimens were not the strongly yellow Australian subspecies P. demoleus sthenelus, but resembled populations of P. demoleus malayanus from South-East Asia. P. demoleus has now been reported from Puerto Rico (Homziak and Homziak, 2006) and, more recently, a December 2006 OPIS (Offshore Pest Information System) report helped to confirm new country detection of lime swallowtail in Jamaica (NAPPO, 2006; see

All records of this species from the Afrotropical (Ethiopian) biogeographical region refer to the closely related but specifically distinct P. demodocus.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanRestricted distributionHeydemann, 1954
BahrainWidespreadWiltshire, 1964
BangladeshWidespreadBingham, 1907; APPPC, 1987
BhutanPresentNHM, 1891
CambodiaWidespreadHANSON, 1963; Waterhouse, 1993
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FujianRestricted distributionTong, 1993
-GuangdongPresentTong, 1993
-GuangxiPresentTong, 1993
-HainanWidespreadTong, 1993
-Hong KongWidespreadMarsh, 1960
-YunnanPresentNHM, 1921
-ZhejiangRestricted distributionTong, 1993
IndiaWidespreadTalbot, 1939; APPPC, 1987
-Andhra PradeshPresentNarayanamma and Savithri, 2003
-AssamPresentCIE, 1979
-GujaratPresentPatel et al., 2004
-Himachal PradeshPresentCIE, 1979
-Indian PunjabPresentCIE, 1979
-Jammu and KashmirPresentCIE, 1979
-KarnatakaPresentChanna Basavanna, 1954
-MaharashtraPresentCIE, 1979
-RajasthanPresentCIE, 1979
-SikkimPresentCIE, 1979
-Tamil NaduPresentSingh, 1991
-Uttar PradeshPresentCIE, 1979
-West BengalPresentSubhankar and Amitava, 2007
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JavaPresent, few occurrencesMatsumoto & Woro Noerdjito, 1996
-KalimantanPresentMatsumoto, 2002; Matsumoto, 2002
-KalimantanPresent Invasive Matsumoto, 2002; Matsumoto, 2002
-Nusa TenggaraPresent Invasive Matsumoto, 2002
-SumatraPresentKalshoven and van der Laan, 1981
IranPresentEckweiler and Hofmann, 1980; Farid, 1987
IraqRestricted distributionLarsen, 1977; EPPO, 2014
KuwaitRestricted distributionAl-Houty, 1983
LaosWidespreadDean, 1978; Waterhouse, 1993
MalaysiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Peninsular MalaysiaWidespreadCorbet and Pendlebury, 1992
-SabahPresent, few occurrencesAnon, 1962
-SarawakPresent, few occurrencesWan, 1970
MyanmarWidespreadBingham, 1907; HANSON, 1963; Waterhouse, 1993
NepalWidespreadSmith, 1990
OmanWidespreadLarsen & Larsen, 1980
PakistanWidespreadTalbot, 1939
PhilippinesWidespreadJumalon, 1969; Corbet and Pendlebury, 1992
QatarRestricted distributionPittaway, 1980
Saudi ArabiaWidespreadPittaway, 1979
SingaporeWidespreadMurphy, 1973; APPPC, 1987; Waterhouse, 1993
Sri LankaWidespreadTalbot, 1939
SyriaPresentBenyamini et al., 2007
TaiwanWidespreadIo and, 1990; Tong, 1993
ThailandWidespreadPinratana, 1977; Waterhouse, 1993
TurkeyPresentBenyamini et al., 2007
United Arab EmiratesRestricted distributionWalker and Pittaway, 1987
VietnamWidespreadNHM, 1918; NHM, 1927; HANSON, 1963; Waterhouse, 1993

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentBenyamini et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced2004 Not invasive Guerrero et al., 2004
JamaicaWidespreadIntroduced2006 Invasive IPPC, 2006; Garraway et al., 2009Established in most parishes and a minor pest in citrus nurseries
Puerto RicoPresentHomziak Homziak, 2006; Segarra-Carmona et al., 2010


PortugalPresentIntroducedMorgun and Wiemers, 2012; EPPO, 2014


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Australian Northern TerritoryWidespreadCommon and Waterhouse, 1981
-New South WalesRestricted distributionCommon and Waterhouse, 1981
-QueenslandWidespreadCommon and Waterhouse, 1981
-South AustraliaRestricted distributionCommon and Waterhouse, 1981
-VictoriaRestricted distributionCommon and Waterhouse, 1981
-Western AustraliaWidespreadCommon and Waterhouse, 1981
Papua New GuineaRestricted distributionCommon and Waterhouse, 1981


Top of page P. demoleus is a very direct and rapid-flying species of gardens, farms and sunny open areas, stopping only to nervously sip nectar from many species of flowers, such as Ixora spp., Lantana spp., Vernonia spp. and Clerodendrum spp. Males sometimes congregate at puddles and riverbanks in search of salts. This species avoids dense, damp forest, and excessively wet areas.

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page This species can be found almost everywhere Citrus spp. are cultivated under rural or urban conditions; however, wet, wooded areas are avoided. Although Murraya koenigii is an excellent host, larvae cannot complete their development on M. panniculata, a common garden shrub.

Yunus and Munir (1972) showed that P. demoleus larvae will accept leaves of at least 19 citrus species or varieties, but demonstrated some differences in larval consumption rates, development times, and mortality between the hosts.

Utilization of the leguminous genus Psoralea is mainly confined to the Australasian subspecies (Common and Waterhouse, 1981); however, Psoralea corylifolia [Cullen corylifolium] has been recorded as a suitable host from Rajasthan (Pandey and Bogawat, 1969) and other areas of northern India. Michelia champaca and Annona squamosa are also newly recorded hosts from India (Patil and Rajashekhargouda, 1985).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Aegle marmelos (golden apple)RutaceaeWild host
Annona squamosa (sugar apple)AnnonaceaeOther
Cullen corylifolium (black-dot)FabaceaeOther
Cullen corylifolium (black-dot)FabaceaeWild host
Desmodium gangeticumFabaceaeWild host
Glycosmis pentaphyllaRutaceaeWild host
HaplophyllumRutaceaeWild host
Limonia acidissima (elephant apple)RutaceaeWild host
Michelia champaca (golden champa)MagnoliaceaeWild host
Murraya koenigii (curry leaf tree)RutaceaeMain
Ruta graveolens (common rue)RutaceaeWild host
Zanthoxylum (prickly-ash)RutaceaeWild host
Ziziphus mauritiana (jujube)RhamnaceaeOther

Growth Stages

Top of page Vegetative growing stage


Top of page The phytophagous larvae generally eat younger leaves and can denude growing shoots. During major infestations, the entire plant may be defoliated (Zacher, 1914).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Growing point / external feeding
Leaves / external feeding

Biology and Ecology

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The spherical, pale yellow eggs are laid singly on the upper surface of young leaves. These darken as the larva develops within, and hatch after 5-9 days. Radke and Kandalkar (1988) state that 15-22 eggs are laid per female, but Farid (1987) quotes a maximum of 511 eggs per female. Krishnamoorthy and Singh (1986) found that natural rates of egg parasitism by Trichogramma chilonis could reach 75.9% in Karnataka, India. This stage generally lasts 4-7 days, depending on temperature.


Up until the fourth instar the brown-black and white larvae feed and rest openly on the upper sides of leaves, relying on a resemblance to fresh bird droppings for protection.

Mature larvae behave differently. These generally rest some distance from the feeding area on twigs among foliage and rely on their now cryptic coloration for protection; however, Corbet and Pendlebury (1992) state that it is at this stage that larvae suffer their heaviest mortality. Larvae of this species can often be found in the company of larvae of Papilio polytes and P. memnon, which are very similar in appearance. The larval stage generally lasts 15-26 days, depending on temperature.


Pupae, which are formed under leaves or on twigs near the feeding site, may be either brown or green depending on the colour of the substrate. Rafi et al. (1989) found that overall mortality was highest during this stage, with the main mortality factor being the parasitoid Pteromalus puparum. Farid (1987) states that 30-86% of pupae are killed by this wasp. This stage lasts from 8-19 days to a number of months, depending on whether the pupa diapauses. Details of pupal diapause are given by Singh (1993b) and Ishii (1987).


The unmistakable yellow and black chequered adults (65-100 mm) generally emerge during the morning and are usually on the wing a few hours later, visiting low-growing flowers in sunny locations. Courtship takes place in such areas, with mating lasting 1.5-2 h. The natural lifespan of wild adults rarely exceeds 6 days (Singh and Gangwar, 1989).

More details of the biology of this species in India and Pakistan are given by Ghosh (1914), Mishra and Pandey (1965), Radke and Kandalkar (1988), Rafi et al., (1989), Singh and Gangwar (1989), and Goyle (1990).

In Puerto Rico, where it has recently been introduced, it has a life cycle of approximately 30 days. From oviposition, eggs hatch in three days. Larval instar durations are 3, 2, 3, 3, and 5 d for larval stages 1 to 5, respectively. Pupal stage lasts approximately 12 days. Twelve or more generations are possible under local citrus-growing conditions (Segarra-Carmona et al., 2010).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis Pathogen Larvae
Brachymeria jambolana Parasite Pupae
Bracon hebetor Parasite Larvae
Cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus (CPV) Pathogen Larvae
cytoplasmic polyhedrosis viruses Pathogen Larvae Karnataka Citrus
Distatrix papilionis Parasite Larvae India; Karnataka Citrus
Erycia nymphalidophaga Parasite Larvae
Holcojoppa coelopyga Parasite Larvae
Ooencyrtus papilionis Parasite Eggs
Ooencyrtus papilionis Parasite Eggs
Polistes olivaceus Predator Larvae
Pteromalus puparum Parasite Pupae
Stegodyphus sarasinorum Predator Larvae
Telenomus talaus Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma chilonis Parasite Eggs India; Karnataka Citrus

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Krishnamoorthy and Singh (1988) surveyed the parasitoids of P. demoleus and P. polytes in Karnataka, India, in 1984-85. The egg parasitoids Trichogramma chilonis and a Telenomus sp., and the larval parasitoid Distatrix papilionis, were common. Two uncommon hyperparasitoids of the egg parasitoid Ooencyrtus papilionis were also recorded. Percentage parasitism by T. chilonis, a Telenomus sp. and O. papilionis was 0-65, 10-78 and 1-73, respectively. The same authors first recorded T. chilonis parasitizing eggs of these papilionids in India in 1986, with natural rates of parasitism up to 75.9%. In laboratory studies, T. chilonis readily parasitized 1 to 2-day-old Papilio eggs, with development taking 8.3 days at 28°C. Adult wasps survived for 6.9 days when fed with 40% honey solution. Each parasitized Papilio egg yielded 8-27 adults of both sexes. The male-to-female ratio was 1:7.06. The authors suggested that T. chilonis could be mass-reared in eggs of the pyralid Corcyra cephalonica and released to suppress populations of P. demoleus and P. polytes.

Singh (1991) carried out a similar survey in Tamil Nadu, India, of P. demoleus, P. polytes, P. polymnestor and P. helenus, all pests of citrus. The following parasitoids were recorded: Distatrix papilionis, Holcojoppa coelopyga, Melalophacharops sp., Brachymeria jambolana and Pteromalus puparum. The latter was found by Farid (1987) to be the most active parasitoid of pupae in southern Iran, with pupae of the fourth generation being the most susceptible (86% parasitism) and those of the seventh generation the least susceptible (30%).

Singh (1993) reported that an entomophilic nematode (Steinernema sp.) isolated from Agrotis segetum and A. biconica in India, was shown to be highly effective against larvae of P. demoleus in the laboratory, causing 90-100% mortality within 10 days.

Preparations of Bacillus thuringiensis have been used throughout the region to control this species and may sometimes be found infecting larvae under natural conditions.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page P. demoleus has been introduced accidentally with citrus stock.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Leaves eggs; larvae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
True seeds (inc. grain)


Top of page Although generally not important pests of larger trees, larvae of P. demoleus can become so numerous as to repeatedly defoliate young trees or small bushes of Citrus spp. or Murraya koenigii, causing the death of those plants. This is particularly so in citrus orchards.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page The presence of adults at flowers or flying around citrus plants will indicate the occurrence of this species in an area. Field infestations of P. demoleus are detected by visually surveying orchards for signs of damage to leaves on young shoots, or for the presence of eggs or young larvae on leaves.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Although the adult is very distinct, with no similar species in the Oriental region, the eggs, larvae and pupae are very similar to a number of other citrus-feeding species, notably Papilio polytes, P. memnon, P. rumanzovius, P. polymnestor and P. helenus. These may be found together on the same plant.

The adult P. demoleus is, however, very similar to the African species P. demodocus, from which it can be distinguished by the characteristic form of the blue and red eyespots on the hindwing as well as the rounded outlines of cream spots on the forewing.

Prevention and Control

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Low-level infestations can be controlled by hand-picking larvae (Cherian, 1942). Severe infestations are generally controlled by applying chemical pesticides or plant extracts to the foliage, e.g. carbaryl, phosalone, acephate, pirimiphos-methyl, fenitrothion, permethrin, etc. Details are given by Radke and Kandalkar (1986), Singh and Kumar (1986), Batra (1990), Nandihalli et al. (1991), and Solunke and Deshpande (1991).

The efficacy of different concentrations of the biopesticides Bacillus thuringiensis and Beauveria bassiana, as well as of neem seed kernel extract, neem oil and azadirachtin were tested by Narayanamma and Savithri (2003) against P. demoleus in Andhra Pradesh, India. Spraying of B. thuringiensis resulted in a 100% control of the pest population after 5 days of application, regardless of the concentration used (0.0025, 0.005 or 0.0075%). The mean reduction in the population of the pest was highest using B. thuringiensis and lowest with azadirachtin sprays.


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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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