Sunday, January 13, 2013

Common Mormon (Papilio polytes)

Family : Papilionidae
Genus : Papilio
Species : P. polytes
Wingspan : 90-100mm

Location : Divulapitiya, Sri Lanka
Camera : Nikon D3100, 18-55 mm

Common Mormon Female form: Cyrus

Common Mormon (Papilio polytes) is a very commonly seen throughout the year in very season. It belongs to species swallowtail butterflies. The male butterfly has only one form while the females have several forms which mimics the other swallowtail butterflies as common rose, crimson rose etc. The females show the patterns similar to the poisonous butterflies as crimson rose with the purpose of avoiding the attention of predators. So far I have recorded three forms of female common mormon as per the observations at the location ; Divulapitiya namely form cyrus, form stichius and form romulus. The form stichius mimics crimson rose butterfly very closely.

Female: Form romulus

Female: Form stichius

Early Stages of Common Mormon

Common Mormon; Egg to first instar

The egg takes about 3-3.5 days to mature. The head of the young caterpillar is faintly visible when it is fully matured and the caterpillar eats the top of the egg shell to come out and then eats the rest as its first meal. The initial length is about 2-3mm just after hatching and shows spiky appearance. The first instar caterpillar grows up to about length 6mm. After being 3-4 days in first instar ,the caterpillar moults.


The second instar caterpillar shows white markings than the first instar and it takes 3-3.5 days to moult. The body length reaches up to 10mm at the later of this stage. The third instar lasts about 3 days later after reaching the body length about 15-17mm.

The fourth instar caterpillar reaches upto about 25mm and show dark green undertone. After 3-4days, it moults to fifth instar; the final stage. In fifth instar, the caterpillar shows a different appearance from its early stages with molted green color blended with brown color just after finishing the moulting process as shown in picture upper right corner. At this stage, the body length is about 30-32mm. Then it gradually changes the body color in to smoother green and reaches upto about 40mm.  

The freshly emerged 5th instar caterpillar eats its moulted skin.

The appearance shows the markings on the skin more prominently at the later of the fifth instar. When its fully matured after about 6 days the body length reaches to about 48mm. At the end of the fifth instar, the body gradually shorten and the caterpillar cease eating and finds a suitable place to pupate. At the pre-pupatory stage, the caterpillar spins silk pad on a stem of the host plant and forms silk strand to be securely hang on. The pupation takes place after about 12hours later.

The development of pupa happens for about 8-10 days. On the day prior to emerge, the pupal skin starts to become translucent and the wing patterns are barely visible. At the next day morning, the pupal case becomes fully colored except the abdomen. 

It takes about 3-4 hours to become the body fully disentangle with the pupal case and the color of the abdomen gradually becomes darker. The butterfly gives about 3-4 kicks within this period to get the body disentangle. At the end of it, the butterfly gives its final kick to break the pupal case at the head region and gradually comes out of the case.

It takes about 30 minutes to fully unfold the wings.

Wing Scales

It rests for about 1.5-2 hours to dry the wings and then starts its journey.

The head region, abdomen, hindwing pattern and the  posteriad prolongations of the hind wings.

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