Papilio polytes caterpillar on lime plant

Papilio polytes caterpillar on lime plant

I found these caterpillars on the lime plants in my balcony. These are the larva of the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes). The butterfly is very common in gardens and is quite interesting in that the female has a number of different forms. Here are some life cycle shots of the caterpillar.

This is the caterpillar a few days after it hatched. This instar is called the bird dropping instar. The caterpillar rests prominently on the leaves and looks like the dropping of a bird. Even the white streaks are copied.

A week later the caterpillar looks like this. Completely green. This caterpillar could be in its 4th or 5th instar. It will pupate after this and I hope to get some nice images of the chrysalis.

The butterfly if it emerges could look like the mother or it could be patterned in a different form. The reasons for the different patterning has got to do with mimicking another poisonous butterfly so that its own chance of survival goes up.

These caterpillars are quite easy to grow and study as long as you have curry patta or lime plants around. These could be observed in a classroom and the class could learn how to feed and clean the caterpillar and its container. They would learn how to keep accurate and disciplined observations about the different activities of the caterpillar. And finally they can have the joy of watching an adult emerge and take flight.


@viren Sir it would be great if you also send good reference on your post because whatever you are saying may be true but need to be proved here with a reference. Also try to share daily pictures of the same sir so that everyone could see the different life stages of those caterpillars.


@VirenVaz it was really nice that you introduced this to us apart from reference I would like to know what are the things we can study from this as a home based model system… What are the interesting question we can target or answer with the help of this friend of us? @Sjuday2527 do suggest as well



I would certainly love to give you references. But this is knowledge gained over 25 year of studying these insects. It’s like asking you to give references of a magnet having North and south pole. I would refer you to Wikipedia. But unfortunately that’s a page I’ve started, but it is community endorsed.
Having said all this, I think it is very important to provide reference or else origin research for proper scientific discussion to be had. So Uday, you point out any sentence that you would like references to, and I’ll turn the entire internet over and provide those for you.


First: polymorphism, why does this butterfly display polymorphism
Second: what are the defenses as a caterpillar. What are the enemies in response to which these defences have evolved.
Third: what does this caterpillar eat. And why only that. Can it eat something else.
Forth: what causes the exoskeleton to split?
Fifth: what happens when the food runs out?

I could go on. Some of these I’ve already answered. Some I’ve read about, but not verified. And some I just made up for you. :joy:.
There can be many more. Try finding a caterpillar to rear. Take daily observations on its various attributes. Questions will come and every answer brings us a little bit closer to understanding the universe we live in.
To the curious there is a question under every leaf.


I have a lemon tree on my terrace. Some years I find such larvae. Some years none.
However every year I find that butterflies lay eggs - roughly 1mm spheres.

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Well. That’s the end of those 3 caterpillars. They became nice and fat after decimating the lime plants and then they fell prey to a lizard, a myna and a parasitic wasp that’s bored out of the chrysalis.


Global invasion history of the agricultural pest butterfly Pieris rapae revealed with genomics and citizen science

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