PacSci Perspectives

Fresh Sheet – November 19, 2016

by | Nov 19, 2016

Papilio pilumnus

Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)


This week we have a lot of Papilionidae (swallowtail) butterfly pupae. Representing this insect family are Battus belus, Battus polydamas, Eurytides epidaus, Eurytides thymbraeus, Heraclides anchisiades, Papilio erostratus, Papilio pilumnus, and Papilio torquatus for a total of 190 pupae – over a quarter of the pupae shipment.

Some swallowtails will have the characteristic tails on their hindwings. These wing tips break off easily, sometimes within hours of emerging. It is thought that theses tips act as a decoy for predators. A bird will try to grab the butterfly by the tail, only to have a small bit of wing break off instead of capturing the whole insect. Many butterflies in the Papilio family have no tails but then there’s the gorgeous Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail) with three tails on each hindwing!

Stop by our Tropical Butterfly House and look for representatives of the swallowtail family but be aware that swallowtail butterflies can be a bit slow to emerge from their chrysalides. Some swallowtail butterflies should emerge by next week but often a handful will go into diapause, a state of paused development. Diapause is when the chrysalis stops transforming into a butterfly, perhaps for weeks or months at a time. In nature, diapause evolved to help get the species through difficult conditions such as winter, drought, or other seasonal or intermittent climate events. For us, diapause is a nuisance. Our Tropical Butterfly House is ready to host butterflies every day of the year. But with patience, all of the pupae have the potential to complete their metamorphosis and be released into the exhibit.

Neotropical Insects NV – Suriname

5 – Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
5 – Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
65 – Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
90 – Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
90 – Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
7 – Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
5 – Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
9 – Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 276

Bioproductores de El Salvador

40 – Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
35 – Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
35 – Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
15 – Eurytides epidaus (Long-tailed Kite Swallowtail)
30 – Eurytides thymbraeus (White-crested Swallowtail)
8 – Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
20 – Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
25 – Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
20 – Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
20 – Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
35 – Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
40 – Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
30 – Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
20 – Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
12 – Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)
25 – Tithorea tarricina (Cream-Spotted Tigerwing)

Total = 410
Grand Total = 686

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

These butterflies typically arrive as pupae on the Thursday or Friday before the Fresh Sheet is published. Some of these butterflies will start emerging the day they arrive or the next day, but other species may take a full week before they reach adulthood. After emerging, they may live for a week or even a few months! While we love sharing a variety of species with our guests, we cannot guarantee that any specific species will be flying on the day that you visit Pacific Science Center.

If you are interested in photographing a specific butterfly and would like to be updated about when it is flying in the Tropical Butterfly House, please email with details and your contact information.

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