Christmas butterfly

Christmas butterfly (citrus swallowtail or Papilio demodocus), is a large butterfly that lives in sub-Saharan Africa. This species passes through 3 generations per year. The female butterfly lays eggs on citrus leaves. They stay there 6 days, after that an immature larva is hatched. The larva is yellow, black and has white spikes. These colors have the purpose of providing a good camouflage. Immature larva will grow up to 10-15 mm, when it will change into mature larva.

Mature larva is much different. They are green with eyespots and pink or white markings. Their length can be 45 mm. Mature caterpillars doesn’t have camouflage! They produce osmeterium, when they are threatened by a bird or other predator, which has a strong smell and should repel predator. Due to this chemical, larvae are commonly known as ‘’orange dogs.’’

The caterpillar attaches to the branches using silk. They will transform into pupae. This stage lasts 2-3 weeks after what they become a fully adult! Adult butterflies have a unique color pattern. They have yellow and black markings, with blue and red eye spots. Usually, female butterflies are bigger than males. The largest natural enemies are: Pteromalus puparum (pupae) and Ooencyrtus (eggs).

Only females and males of the same species can mate! In some cases two males can try to mate with one female, also, a homosexual copulation is noticed. In some rare cases, females accept mating with a male from a different genus or species. Only the immature females, who cannot determine who are males from their own species, accept this kind of mating. Due to this kind of mating, there is a diversity in the species.

 

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