Mocker Swallowtail

Papilio dardanus (?)

Papilio dardanus observed in Gatamaiyo Forestt, Kenya. Photo © by Michael Plagens

In a road cut through Gatamaiyo Forest, Nakuru County, Kenya, Oct. 2017.

There are a handful of patterns that birds avoid because they are not safe to eat. Poisons or stings are the usual weapon and in the case of Danaid butterflies, poisons are sequestered from their host plants, the milkweeds. But the formula gets complicated because a suite of other butterflies have evolved the seemingly exact patterns of the poisonous butterflies, yet would be a perfectly good meal for a hungry bird. Birds must learn to be very discriminating and naturalists must look twice or more to be sure of their identifications. The butterfly here is a kind of swallowtail - a misnomer in this case, because it lacks tails! The male pattern is completely different and does not mimic poisonous butterflies. There are full treatises written about this butterfly and the complicated interactions with insectivorous birds. Follow the links below for more information.

Papilionidae -- Swallowtail Butterfly Family

More Information:

Kenya Natural History

Copyright Michael J. Plagens. Page created 7 Mar. 2017.