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Papilio demoleus Linnaeus (Lemon butter fly OR Citrus caterpillar)

Papilio demoleus Linnaeus (Lemon butter fly OR Citrus caterpillar)


Class– Insecta

Order– Lepidoptera

Family– Papilionidae



Distribution :

The genus Papilio is distributed throughout the world. The lemon butterfly (Papilio demoleus) causes damage to citrus plants in Africa, Taiwan, India and Japan. In India, they are distributed all over the country.

Food plant :

The only host plant of this pest are citrus plants.

General appearance :

It is a beautiful butterfly of large size measuring about 2.8 cm in length and 9.4 cm on wing expanse. It has black coloured head and thorax regions, whereas, abdomen is creamy yellow coloured. The wings are dull coloured with yellow markings on them. Black coloured antennae are clubbed.

Life history :

This pest is active throughout the year in plains but it hibernates in the pupal stage during severe winter on the hills. After mating with male, the female butterfly,  lays 75-200 eggs within 2-5 days, singly, on the under-surface tender shoots and leaves. The freshly laid eggs are smooth, rounded and pale or green coloured. After the incubation period of 3-4 days in summer and 5-8 days in winter, the eggs turn dark grey and are hatched into brown coloured caterpillars with white markings on the body. The young caterpillar emerges by cutting a hole in the egg-shell which becomes the food of the caterpillar. They prefer to feed on the young leaves of citrus. The full grown caterpillar is greenish in colour and brown bands are present. Now, full fed caterpillar becomes motionless while exposed commonly near the mid-rib and looks like bird droppings. They also discharge a repelling fluid at the time of any danger. The caterpillar stage lasts for 2 weeks in summer and 4 weeks in winter. Now it starts to secrete silken thread around its body and pupates on the leave, twigs or any other raised structure. The pupal stage lasts for about 8-9 days in summer and about 9-11 days in winter and butterfly emerges usually in the morning hours. The life span of the male is quite shorter (4 days) than the female (7 days). Four overlapping generations have been recorded in one year.

Damage :

The caterpillars of lemon butterfly cause destruction of the citrus plants. They feed on the fresh leaves and terminal shoots. It has been observed that they start feeding from margin and reach the mid-ib. The severe attack by full grown caterpillars causes complete defoliation of citrus plants thus rendering them unfit for fruit bearing.

Prevention and control :

  1. The caterpillars and pupae should be handpicked and killed.
  2. The spraying of 0.05% malathion is very much effective for the control of this pest.

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