Papilio indra fordi

Photo Life HistoryPapilio indra fordi; JCMDI

Habitat:  California's Granite Mountains and the Eastern Mojave Desert.  Finding habitat oftentimes requires a certain degree of hiking to find host plants situated in washes and rocky outcroppings.  See JCMDI link above for more information. 

Host Plants:  Cymopterus panamintensis

Suitable Lab Host PlantsCymopterus terebinthinus calcareus; Cymopterus terebinthinus petraeus; Tauschia arguta; Lomatium parryi; Foeniculum vulgare*   Note:  Use only potted plants of fennel; cuttings are not advisable unless freshly cut; and replaced daily.  This plant loses nutritional value very quickly creating a situation where larvae can get sick.  Avoid fennel if possible.

Caring for Live Female Butterflies:  Feed females regularly.

Methods of Female Oviposition:  Open Screen Cages;  This brief video shows a female indra laying an egg in an open screen cage.

How to Find Eggs:  Eggs on Peripheral Stalks; Plants in some populations are so spotty that you usually will find eggs and larvae during a half-way decent flight of this butterfly.

How to Hatch Eggs:  Consolidate eggs into one container

How to Find Caterpillars in the Field:  Once you understand where Papilio indra females prefer to lay eggs, the key to finding caterpillars has a lot to do with understanding and recognizing the progressional change in caterpillar feeding damage and resting preferences as caterpillars progress through its instars.

Caterpillar Feeding Damage:  See this slide show.   Look for unique first instar skeletonizing chew marks on stalks where eggs are likely to have been laid.  Third instars rest at the base of the plant whereas late instar larvae "strip down" the host plant leaves; but leave the central stalk in tact.

Caterpillar Resting Positions:  See this slide show.  First instar indra larvae rest up-side-down on the stalks of its host plant.  Third instar larvae tend to move away from the periphery of the host plant to rest at its base.  Fourth and fifth instars rest at the base of the host or off the host altogether.

Caterpillar setups:  For first through fourth instars, I recommend using the Open terrariums or Open Bucket technique.  If you're only rearing a few fifth instar caterpillars, I recommend using a Closed Container--Papilio indra.  For more information, please see this video to see why I recommend using a closed container for later instars.   

Larva to Pupa:  Larva purges and wanders.

Number of Broods per Year: 1.  Some lab reared adults have emerged immediately in the lab.

Overwintering Stage:  Pupa.  

Overwintering Strategies: Your Own Backyard; Refrigerator

Post-Hibernation Strategies: Expose pupae to warmer temperatures; long-day photoperiod; and intermittent humidity

Avoiding Diapause Techniques:   Pupae that have extended diapause have been known to respond and break diapause during the summer months by providing misting pupae. 

Disease Prevention:  Be mindful of Papilio indra fordi populations where host plants are spotty because during wet springs of very strong flights, fordi immatures have been known to be so common on the Cymopterus panamintensis that they strip the plant and wade in each other's frass creating a situation where they can get sick and die. If you harvest these infected larvae, this same virus can spread to any other immatures you have in the lab. Not only does overcrowding larvae create problems in the lab; but, sometimes in nature as well.  See information provided in Utah Lepidopterist

Emergence:  Emergence Container

Field Notes: Dr. Wayne Whaley has done extensive research on the entire Papilio indra complex.  Click here for section on Papilio indra fordi.