Papilio indra
Indra Swallowtail

Family Description:
Alternate Common Names:Short-Tailed Black Swallowtail, Cliff Swallowtail.
Caterpillar: The caterpillars vary in appearance both with age and subspecies. Young caterpillars are mottled with black, brown and white, looking much like a bird dropping (a good camouflage strategy). Older caterpillars are generally black and ringed with white, pink, or yellow; at or near each ring are spots of orange, yellow, or white.
Adult: This is a large species, with a wingspan of 2 to 3 inches, and it has a very short to medium length tail extending from each hindwing. The butterfly’s coloration varies a great deal. Generally, however, the upperside is mostly brownish black and usually marked with a thin to broad, yellowish white band which runs from wingtip to wingtip, forming a flattened out "V". The edges of the wings are lined with a row of whitish spots. The hindwing is marked with several patches of blue and an orange eyespot with a dark center. Underneath is similarly marked. The abdomen is often used in identification of this species: it is either completely black or marked only with a small whitish dash on each side, towards the rear.

Primarily a western species, it occurs from Washington south to southern California, and east to southeastern Montana south to northern New Mexico. In Idaho, it occurs in the north central to the southwestern parts of the state, and in patches of the southeast.

It occurs in dry, open areas such as deserts, canyons, and pinyon-juniper woodlands, in mountains, and in ponderosa pine forests.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of members of the parsley family (Apiaceae), including lomatium (Lomatium spp.) and cymopterus (Cymopterus spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

There is generally only one generation of caterpillars each summer. Caterpillars hide at the bases of their host plants which are most often growing among rocks. Pupae overwinter in a physiological state called diapause, and may remain in diapause for several seasons if conditions are unfavorably dry. Adults generally fly from May through early July inmost of its range. Butterflies frequent the tops of rocky slopes. This behavior is called "hill topping" and is an important strategy for finding mates.

Males perch to wait for receptive females, and may defend a territory from competing males. Females lay eggs singly on the bottom side of host plant leaves.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.