Friday, May 20, 2011

Species profile: Indra swallowtail

Indra swallowtail - Papilio indra
The indra is special to me because it is one of the few local butterflies I always wanted to see, but never have until the last couple years.  It is a relatively small member of the swallowtail family (Papilionidae), and has very short tails.  The anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) is very similar, but is more yellow than black, and has longer tails.  The indra swallowtail shown here is the first individual I had ever seen, which is why I kept it for my collection.
Both indra and anise swallowtails use plants in the parsley family, usually in the genus Lomatium ("desert parsley") such as the one seen below.
Males are frequently seen "puddling", sipping dissolved minerals and other nutrients from moist sand and other surfaces. (click on photos for larger versions)


The individuals in the following photos are also puddling, but notice the deformed wing of the indra swallowtail (the other butterflies are anise swallowtails). You can see the complete wing pattern on the right front wing, but the edge is shrunken towards the center.  This kind of deformation may have been caused by a number of factors, including inadequate food supply in the larval stage, damage to the chrysalis, or a genetic deficiency.
Indra (lower left) and anise swallowtails and honeybees.
Finally, here are some more photos for your enjoyment...

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