Citrus Swallowtail

Papilio demodocus

Citrus Swallowtail

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A close up of a Papilio demodocus demodocus butterfly (citrus swallow tail)
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The Citrus Swallowtail is a common and widespread species of butterfly native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They thrive in many kinds of habitats, including gardens. Young larvae look convincingly like bird droppings when found walking over the leaves of citrus plants. The larvae will have a nibble on the leaves of citrus, however, rarely won't do too much damage. When plentiful, the larvae are most damaging in orchards.


Adult butterflies are brilliant pollinators for your garden.
If numerous, larvae may cause some damage to citrus. But generally, they're harmless.


Adult: Papilio demodocus is a large butterfly, where the wingspan of the females may reach as far as 13cm. Wing patterning consists mainly of black colouration with yellow banding, white spots and speckles. They possess two pairs of eyespots (orange, blue and black) on the hindwings. This species lacks any wing tails. Larvae: Young larvae show a close resemblance to a bird dropping! As they grow, they turn more a conspicuous bright green, with brown-black and orange irregular body markings. They acquire two red appendages on the head which expel a foul scent, used to deter predators. Pupae: Found on the stems or trunk of plants. Tends to be brown and appears to look like part of the plant. Eggs: Tiny, yellow, spherical eggs are laid singly on the host plant.


A caterpillar resembling a bird dropping may be seen on citrus. Notches may be missing from the leaves of citrus. Large, chunky green caterpillars may be found on or near citrus. Pupae resembling dead leaves may be found beneath the leaves of citrus.











Widespread across Southern Africa, lacking from dryer localities.

Biological treatment

We don't advise removing these from the garden because they are fabulous pollinators as adults. However, if you're worried for your citrus, relocate these beauties to any citrus relatives nearby, or you can give one of the garden birds a tasty treat!

Chemical treatment

It's not recommended to apply any chemical treatments to remove these insects.


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