Papilio indra minori

Photo Life HistoryPapilio indra minori

Habitat:  Canyonlands, badlands, swells, and reefs within the Colorado Plateau region of Central and Southern Utah, SE Colorado and Northern Arizona.  Click here for more information on Utah populations.  Finding habitat is not always sufficient for locating this butterfly.  It is also critical to find the larval host plant as these can grow intermittently throughout the habitat.

Host Plants:  Lomatium junceum; Cymopterus terebinthinus petraeus; Lomatium eastwoodiae; Lomatium parryi

Suitable Lab Host PlantsLomatium graveolens; Cymopterus terebinthinus calcareus; Tauschia arguta

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; (Although this doesn't apply to some populations of P. i. minori.)  Seek out host plants that are exceptionally healthier than other sun-scorched plants within a population.  Many of these plants are growing in washes or at the base of a wash next to a reef; creating healthier roots than other plants.  Females will lay eggs on these types of plants.

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: 1-3 (depending upon location and late spring/summer precipitation)

Overwintering Stage:  Pupa.  

Overwintering Strategies: Your Own Backyard; Refrigerator

Post-Hibernation Strategies: Expose Pupae to warmer temperatures; Long-Day Photoperiod; and High Humidity.

Avoiding Diapause Techniques:  By providing caterpillars with healthy host plant, once they pupate, they have a better chance of avoiding diapause and emerging immediately.  It's also a good idea, during the summer months, to mist spray pupae to coax them to break diapause and emerge.  (This, of course, is a reflection of how some of these pupae respond to summer rains and emerge soon thereafter.)

Disease Prevention:  Critical for P. indra!  Some information is 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 minori.