Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes)
The palamedes swallowtail is one of the largest and most commonly observed butterflies in the southeastern U.S. It is a strong and powerful flier, but readily stops to drink nectar at colorful flowers. Although a frequent garden visitor, the palamedes swallowtail seldom strays far from its woodland home. It is readily distinguished from most other swallowtails in the region by its large size and bold yellow striping. Males tend to be smaller than females and have a rich, velvety black background coloration. Females, on the other hand, are larger and generally appear more chocolate brown.
Females deposit their small cream-colored eggs singly on the underside of host-plant leaves. Like many swallowtail larvae, the young caterpillars are brownish-black with a white saddle and hind quarters. This color pattern resembles a bird dropping and helps protect the young larvae from being eaten. The mature caterpillar is green on top with a reddish-brown underside and numerous small blue dots. The thorax is enlarged and bears two colorful false eyespots that make the caterpillar look as though it has the head of a snake or lizard. A full-grown larva approaches 2.5 inches in length. The pupa (or chrysalis) may be either green or pinkish-brown and is attached to a branch by a silken pad at the base and a silken girdle around the middle. Numerous generations are produced each year.