Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra) (Reakirt, 1866)


Diagnosis: This is a mainly black butterfly with an even yellow band on its broad wings. Papilio indracan be recognized by the black, or almost completely black, abdomen and by the very short tails. Wingspan: 58 to 72 mm.

Subspecies: There are 12 described subspecies in the U.S., but only the nominate subspecies indrahas been found in Canada.

Range: Widespread but local and uncommon in the mountains of the western U.S., it is found in Canada only in southern British Columbia at Manning Provincial Park near Allison Pass. It has been taken several times in the same vicinity, which suggests a resident population.

Similar Species: In its very limited range in Canada, the only similar species is the "nitra" form of the Anise Swallowtail (P. zelicaon), which has much longer tails. [compare images]

The description of the image follows
Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra indra).
Allison Pass, Manning Prov. Park, BC.
J.D. Lafontaine

Early Stages: The larvae are yellow or orange and black banded. They feed on a wide variety of members of the parsley family, mainly desert parsley (Lomatium> spp.).

Abundance: The Indra Swallowtail has only been recorded a few times in British Columbia.


Flight Season: This butterfly has a single brood annually from May to June in the northern part of its range. It has been recorded in Canada in late June.

Habits: The Indra Swallowtail is a butterfly of dry mountainous areas in most of its range, also being found in deserts farther south. Males tend to perch in rocky areas near hill tops awaiting females. The specimen illustrated in the plates was probing wet sand by a lakeshore.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.