Photo by Melody

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Order: Lepidoptera (le-pid-OP-ter-a) (Info)
Family: Papilionidae (pap-ill-lee-ON-ih-dee) (Info)
Genus: Papilio (pap-ILL-ee-oh) (Info)
Species: cresphontes


10 positives
8 neutrals
No negatives


This bug has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Mobile, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
Scottsdale, Arizona
Tempe, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Hope, Arkansas
Camarillo, California
Oceanside, California
Temple City, California
Westminster, California
Winsted, Connecticut
Bartow, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Deland, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Largo, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Miami, Florida
Niceville, Florida
Orange Park, Florida
Osprey, Florida
Palm Coast, Florida
Sebastian, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Venice, Florida
Wauchula, Florida
Hahira, Georgia
Cherry Valley, Illinois
La Grange Park, Illinois
Coatesville, Indiana
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Inwood, Iowa
Hebron, Kentucky
Denham Springs, Louisiana
Kenner, Louisiana
La Place, Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Vicksburg, Mississippi
Salem, Missouri
North Hampton, New Hampshire
Himrod, New York
Cincinnati, Ohio
Rossford, Ohio
Claremore, Oklahoma
Kellyville, Oklahoma
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Byrdstown, Tennessee
Arlington, Texas
Boerne, Texas
Bryan, Texas
Cibolo, Texas
Desoto, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)
Garland, Texas
Houston, Texas (2 reports)
Keller, Texas
Lampasas, Texas
Los Fresnos, Texas
New Caney, Texas
Rockwall, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Spring, Texas (2 reports)
Avoca, Wisconsin
Oxford, Wisconsin

By okus
Thumbnail #1 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by okus

By okus

Thumbnail #2 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by okus

By okus

Thumbnail #3 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by okus

By Sheila_FW

Thumbnail #4 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by Sheila_FW

By jnana

Thumbnail #5 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by jnana

By ceejaytown

Thumbnail #6 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by ceejaytown

By princessnonie

Thumbnail #7 of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) by princessnonie

There are a total of 62 photos.
Click here to view them all!

Member Notes:

Neutral okus On Jul 24, 2006, okus from
(Zone 8b) wrote:

Known as Orange Dog by citrus growers it is sometimes considered a citrus pest. Adults take nectar from Lantana Orange Blossom and other flowers.

More common in the South and South Central states than further north.

Positive GD_Rankin On Sep 6, 2006, GD_Rankin from San Antonio, TX
(Zone 9a) wrote:

According to what I've read, this is the largest butterfly in the United States and Canada. I've only seen a few of these beauties out here this summer and really enjoy watching them. They don't tend to stay in one spot long, so getting a quality photo is very challenging.

Positive renatelynne On Sep 6, 2006, renatelynne from Boerne new zone 30, TX
(Zone 8b) wrote:

Beautiful to see. I usually se it on my butterfly bush in the middle of a hot day.

Neutral Magpye On Apr 18, 2007, Magpye from NW Qtr, AR
(Zone 6a) wrote:

The Giant Swallowtail .. relies solely on plants that are of/in the citrus family for larval (caterpillar) food.

The caterpillar, being called an 'orange dog' .. is approximately 2 inches/5.1 cm in length, and very much resembles the blotchy patterned white & brown bird dropping!

The caterpillar will display an unusual pair of orange antler-like 'scent horns' (osmateria) .. that distribute an offensive odor, when disturbed!!

Neutral sueatkins On May 5, 2007, sueatkins from Brooksville, FL wrote:

Yes, the caterpillar of the giant swallowtail does rely on leaves of the citrus family. When I was raising them, the females actually preferred to lay eggs on the hercules club tree. I have never noticed any damage to citrus trees by the chomping of the orange dog caterpillar. The chrysalis weathers over winter. I have seem them still in place after hurrican winds of 75 mph. This swallowtail is absolutely glorious to observe as it emerges from the chrysalis, pumps up and dries its wings, and flies off.

Neutral nick89 On May 22, 2007, nick89 from Tallahassee, FL
(Zone 8b) wrote:

One of the most common area swallowtails. A handful of their "orange dogs" were on a Sastuma sapling in the front yard, but have since left. They only seem to eat the new growth and leave old tough citrus leaves alone.

Positive catbird8 On May 28, 2007, catbird8 from Houston, TX wrote:

The Giant is easy to raise. It is the credited by many sources as the largest butterfly in N. America. Some give credit to the Tiger as occasionally reaching the same size. But they are rare. The Thoas comes closer due to its minimum average size of 4". The Giant's size is 3-3/8 - 5-1/2 ". They do lay eggs almost exclusively on citrus in southern climate areas but have other sources in the North.

Neutral Plowdaddy On Jul 4, 2007, Plowdaddy from Roscoe, TX
(Zone 7b) wrote:

I thought Rue was also a host plant for this butterfly.

Positive sbannister On Jul 25, 2007, sbannister from Kenner, LA wrote:

I live in Kenner, LA, a suburb of New Orleans. I have raised them for the past two summers (2006 & 2007), I find the eggs on a small citrus tree (which has never borne fruit). In 2005, when I returned from evacuating from hurricane katrina, half of my roof was blown off, but an empty crysalis of a giant swallowtail was still attached to the tree by its tiny strands of silk. The tree was bent but after I propped it up, it thrived. Hurricane Rita passed soon after, and the crysalis was still attached. It was stronger than my roof and many other man-made structures! Not only is the giant a beautiful creature, but amazingly tough as well!

Neutral karlpalm On Nov 30, 2007, karlpalm from Camarillo, CA wrote:

As a child (40 years ago) I never saw giant swallowtails in Southern California, but several years ago they starting appearing here and I have been seeing 5 to 10 per year in Camarillo, Calif. They have clearly migrated and are now established here.

Neutral ginger4az On Oct 13, 2008, ginger4az from Tucson, AZ wrote:

The orange dog catepillar has eaten up my potted lemon tree! My son has helped me pick them off and is now raising them in his room. How long are they in their chrysalis form?

Positive tabasco On May 26, 2009, tabasco from Cincinnati (Anderson Twp), OH
(Zone 6a) wrote:

The Giant Swallowtails aren't restricted just to TX, FL and other citrus growing states. We see them flying through our property here in southwest Ohio, particularly in mid-springtime. The Giant Swallowtail along with the Zebra ST are two of our earliest and most beautiful ST visitors arriving in mid-May in our nectar garden.

We don't have citrus trees to serve as host plants, but we do have lots of Prickly Ash lining the lot lines and they seem to use that for ovipositing. I also have several Ruta graveolens (rue) for them but I haven't noticed them visiting the herb yet.

Positive LouC On Jul 17, 2009, LouC from Desoto, TX
(Zone 8a) wrote:

Found 5 of these cats on my citrus trees this week. At first I thought some bird had been there as the camoflage looks very familiar. When I started to brush it off, it moved. Immediately contacted Sheila and she id'd it for me.
Can't wait to find where it is now.

Positive WineofLife On Apr 12, 2010, WineofLife from Salem, MO
(Zone 6a) wrote:

I have a small tree? in the edge of my Flower Bed in Salem MO. Last year I found several Strange looking Caterpillars on the tree. I didn't know what it was so I took it up to our conservation office, she told me it is called an Orange Dog. This is the Caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail! I have never seen one in person, only in Pictures! I have a Chrysilis that I kept in a Jar over the winter. I don't know what kind of tree they were on, but it is already putting on leaves. Hopefully I'll get to see the Adult when it emerges!!!

Positive Babeboone On Aug 15, 2011, Babeboone from Oxford, WI wrote:

The Giant Swallowtail has been one of my most exciting finds of 2011. As a new member of SWEBA (Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Assoc.) and the NABA (N. Am. Butterfly Assoc.) I am learning loads on info on all kinds of butterflies and plants in our area. On Sat.s fieldtrip we went to the Avoca Wildlife Area (Avoca WI) where in 1 >20 acre field one could see 20+ Giants with moving a step. We saw more than 40 that day.
Here in WI they feed on Prickly Ash. An undesirable plant. Today I watched a female laying eggs and brought 2 home with me. Word has it they do not over winter in WI. Hopefully I can find out the truth.

Positive Sheila_FW On Nov 30, 2011, Sheila_FW from Fort Worth, TX
(Zone 8a) wrote:

The Giant ST will not survive temps in your area Babe...

As for the length in chrysalis that varies. Some as soon as 10 days other months.

Ginger...Curious as to what you were feeding those taken from your tree?

Yes...Rue is another plant that the GST will lay eggs on and it's larvae eat.

Positive penguinesque On Aug 15, 2012, penguinesque from North Hampton, NH wrote:

This beautiful swallowtail is being seen with increasing regularity in Mass and NH. Came to my garden in coastal NH this past weekend. A southern species, its appearance this far north is yet another indication of our warming climate.

Neutral BetCrooks On Sep 30, 2012, BetCrooks from Toronto
Canada wrote:

Actually, these butterflies are moving, living and breeding further north each year. They are now successfully overwintering and breeding just south of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. They were always in south-western Ontario at Point Pelee, but their range has moved dramatically up during the past five years.

We saw them in the early spring near Sharbot Lake Ontario. You can see our photos etc at our website at

There's information about their northward changes in an article in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper too. The link is in our article.

Apparently the limit on their breeding may be the extent of "Prickly Ash" (which is not really an Ash).

They sure are noticeable butterflies!

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