3 inch wingspan
Also known as the giant swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes is the largest butterfly in the United States. It is common throughout many parts North America and ranges as far south as Colombia and Venezuela.
The caterpillars of this species can be a serious pest to citrus trees, which has earned them the nickname orange dog or orange puppy. The giant swallowtail caterpillars have developed extraordinary camouflage from predators by closely resembling bird droppings.
Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies that inhabit every continent in the world except for Antarctica. Most are tropical species and there are over 550 different species included in this group.
We have several species of swallowtail here in the United States, and many states have adopted swallowtails as their state butterfly. Papilio machaon oregonius in Oregon, Papilio glaucus in Virginia, Georgia, Delaware, and South Carolina, and Papilio polyxenes in Oklahoma.
Swallowtails have tails on the end of their hindwings, which help them escape predators in the wild. In the hopes that a bird will grab onto their tail, which they don’t need in order to fly, instead of some other part of their wing or body which are more critical for survival, the butterfly has a chance to get away unharmed. The bird “swallows the tail” instead of the butterfly, hence the name “swallowtail”.