Some of the stunners of the butterfly world, the Swallowtails have only one representative in Hawaii: the Asian Swallowtail, a.k.a. Chinese Yellow Swallowtail, Papilio xuthus. They're a good-sized butterfly, with a wingspan that can get as big as 10 cm. or so, about 4 inches. They were first recorded in Hawaii in the early 1970's, and do not occur on the mainland, though they are widespread throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands. You can tell the males from the females by the coloration: males are blacker all over, and have just a reduced amount of blue scales near the tail, where you also find the yellow eyespot. The females have much more blue along the margins, and have an orange eyespot. Like many butterflies in the Papilio genus, the hindwings have an extension, or "tail," hence the name swallowtail.
Host plants (used for laying eggs and feeding the caterpillar) for the Asian Swallowtail are citrus plants in the family Rutaceae, and include orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and tangelo. Often eggs are laid singly, which will hatch into a blackish-white caterpillar with spikes. The early instars of the larval stage look like bird droppings, and as such, are fairly well camouflaged. As the caterpillar molts and gets too large to pass themselves off bird waste, they change color to a beautiful green which blends in with the leaves of the citrus. They have prominent eyespots, and an orange osmaterium, a tentacle-like forked structure which can be inflated when they are threatened, emitting a smelly secretion. After about two weeks, they pupate, attaching themselves with the head side up. And then, let the remarkable transformation begin.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.