Common Mormon Butterfly (Papilio polytes): A Detailed Guide

Quick Summary: The Common Mormon Butterfly, known scientifically as Papilio polytes, is a striking butterfly found in South Asia and Southeast Asia. It’s known for its vibrant wings and diverse female forms. In its life cycle, it transforms from an egg to a larva, then a pupa, and finally into a beautiful adult butterfly. They love nectar-rich flowers and can be seen in gardens and forests, especially in sunny weather. They have a lifespan of two to four weeks in their adult stage.


Common Mormon Butterfly sitting on leaf

When we think about butterflies, we often picture vibrant wings and gentle flights through sunny gardens. One such butterfly that captures our hearts with its beauty is the Common Mormon Butterfly, also known by its scientific name, Papilio polytes.

Understanding butterflies is not just a hobby; it helps us learn more about the nature that surrounds us. Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating world of this butterfly.


The world of butterflies is diverse and colorful. Among them, the Common Mormon Butterfly stands out as a captivating subject. This butterfly belongs to the large family of swallowtail butterflies, which are known for their distinctive wing shapes and patterns. Before we dive deeper into the world of the Common Mormon, let’s gather some basic information about its background and importance.

Importance of Studying Butterflies

Studying butterflies is a joyful and rewarding experience. These beautiful creatures are like nature’s artwork, fluttering around and bringing life and color to our surroundings. But they are more than just pretty to look at. Butterflies play a significant role in the ecosystem.

They help in pollinating flowers, acting as a food source for other animals, and indicating the health of our environment. By learning about the Common Mormon Butterfly, we can appreciate the delicate balance of nature and the vital role these butterflies play in sustaining it.

Overview of Papilio polytes

At this stage, we are ready to get to know the Common Mormon Butterfly more closely. It is not just another butterfly; it’s a wonderful creature with a rich background and a fascinating life cycle. This butterfly is known for its striking appearance and unique habits.

In the following sections, we will explore the scientific classification, morphological characteristics, habitat, and other intriguing aspects of the Common Mormon Butterfly.

Scientific Classification

common mormon (Papilio polytes) caterpillar pupa

Understanding the Common Mormon Butterfly starts with learning its scientific classification. This helps us place it accurately in the vast world of butterflies and insects. Let’s learn more about where this butterfly belongs in the scientific charts.


In the scientific world, we first categorize living beings into Kingdoms. The Common Mormon Butterfly belongs to the Kingdom Animalia, a group that includes all animals. It is a vast group encompassing beings that have multiple cells and usually move around actively to find food.


Next, we find the class category. The butterfly falls under the class Insecta. This class is a home for insects, which have a three-part body, a pair of antennae, and usually two pairs of wings. This class includes a wide variety of creatures like bees, ants, and, of course, butterflies.


Further down the classification ladder is the order. Our butterfly belongs to the order Lepidoptera. This is a special group reserved for butterflies and moths. Members of this order are known for their beautiful wings covered in tiny scales that give them their vibrant colors.


Within the Lepidoptera order, we find different families of butterflies and moths. The Common Mormon Butterfly is part of the Papilionidae family. This family is characterized by large, often brightly colored butterflies with unique wing shapes.


As we move closer in the classification, we come to the Genus. The Genus of this butterfly is ‘Papilio,’ a large group known for their vibrant wing patterns and strong flights. They are often found in gardens and meadows fluttering gracefully from flower to flower.


Lastly, we have the species category, which is the most specific level of classification. Our butterfly is named ‘polytes,’ making its full scientific name Papilio polytes.

This name is unique to the Common Mormon Butterfly, helping scientists and butterfly enthusiasts identify it easily among a myriad of other butterfly species.

Morphological Characteristics

When we see a butterfly, the first thing that grabs our attention is its beauty, created by a combination of different physical traits. In this section, we will go step-by-step and learn about every tiny detail that makes the Common Mormon Butterfly a truly mesmerizing creature to observe.

Size and Shape

Butterflies come in various sizes and shapes. The Common Mormon Butterfly is medium-sized, with a wing span that can range from 90 to 110 mm. Its wings have a distinctive shape, somewhat triangular, which allows it to have a graceful flight.

The body is slender, which helps it maintain a balanced posture while flying or resting on flowers.

Wing Patterns and Colors

The beauty of the Common Mormon Butterfly is truly in its wings. The wings display a vivid array of colors, usually combining shades of black, white, and red. The patterns on the wings are intricate, with a mix of lines, spots, and swirls that can mesmerize anyone who takes a closer look.

The patterns not only add to its beauty but also play a role in camouflaging and attracting mates.

Sexual Dimorphism

In nature, sometimes males and females of the same species look different, and the Common Mormon Butterfly is no exception. The females have a few different forms, and they can be differentiated from males by the varied patterns and colors on their wings.

This characteristic, called sexual dimorphism, adds to the diversity and intrigue surrounding this butterfly species.

Discover the fascinating differences between the male and female monarch butterflies as well

Life Cycle Stages

The journey of a Common Mormon Butterfly from a tiny egg to a beautiful adult is nothing short of a miracle. Let’s break down each stage to understand this magical transformation:


common mormon (Papilio polytes) egg

The starting point of a butterfly’s life is as an egg. The female lays tiny, spherical eggs on the leaves of host plants. These eggs are the nurturing ground where the first stage of life begins.

Discover more about the fascinating beginning stages of butterflies by reading about luna moth eggs.

Larvae (Caterpillar)

common mormon (Papilio polytes) caterpillar

After some time, the eggs hatch to reveal little caterpillars. These caterpillars have a big appetite and feed voraciously on the leaves to grow bigger. They have a simple goal: eat and grow.

Pupa (Chrysalis)

common mormon (Papilio polytes) pupa stage

As the caterpillar reaches its growth limit, it forms a chrysalis, a protective casing, where it undergoes a remarkable transformation. Inside the chrysalis, it slowly changes, preparing to emerge as a butterfly.


After a period of transformation within the chrysalis, the adult butterfly emerges, displaying its vibrant wings and ready to take on the world. It now begins a new journey of finding mates and continuing the cycle of life.

You can learn more about the monarch butterfly’s lifespan to understand the magical transformation in a butterfly’s lifetime

Through the journey of learning about the morphological characteristics of the Common Mormon Butterfly, we have seen how every stage and aspect of its physical features tells a unique story.

As we move ahead, we will explore the habitats that this beautiful butterfly calls home.


When we talk about the home of the Common Mormon Butterfly, we refer to the places where it loves to flutter its vibrant wings. These are the areas where it finds the right conditions to live, feed, and reproduce. Let’s explore the various aspects of its habitat.

Geographical Distribution

The Common Mormon Butterfly enjoys a wide distribution. It is commonly found in several parts of Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. This butterfly has adapted well to different environments, which is why you can spot it in various places across these countries.

Preferred Habitats

The habitats preferred by the Common Mormon Butterfly are as charming as the butterfly itself. They love being around lush green areas where they can find an abundance of flowers.

You can usually find them in gardens, meadows, and even forested areas that have flowering plants. These environments provide them with ample nectar sources, which is their primary food.

Altitudinal Range

This butterfly is not very picky about the height at which it lives. You can find it fluttering happily at different altitudinal ranges, from lowland areas to hills.

However, they are most commonly seen in regions that are not too high, where the climate is moderate and there are plenty of flowers to feed on.

Behavior and Ecology

Observing the Common Mormon Butterfly in its natural habitat, we can witness a rich tapestry of behaviors that showcase its vibrant role in the ecosystem.

From their feeding habits to their intricate mating dances, every aspect of their life is a testament to the wonders of nature.

Let’s explore the various behaviors and ecological roles of this butterfly.

Mating Behaviour

The mating rituals of the Common Mormon Butterfly are a sight to behold. During the mating season, males can be seen performing a series of aerial displays to attract females.

These displays include fluttering gracefully and showcasing their vibrant wings, which help them to woo their potential mates.

Feeding Habits

Understanding the feeding habits of this butterfly gives us a glimpse into its daily life. Let’s break down the feeding habits at different stages of its life cycle:

Larval Feeding Habits

In the caterpillar stage, their main goal is to eat and grow. They feed mainly on the leaves of host plants, munching away to gather energy for the transformation they are about to undergo.

Adult Feeding Habits

As adults, their dietary preferences shift towards a sweeter menu. They feed on the nectar from flowers, using their long, tube-like tongues called proboscis to sip the sweet liquid. This not only nourishes them but also helps in the pollination of flowers.

To explore the dietary habits of other butterfly species, read about what monarch butterflies eat

Predators and Defence Mechanisms

Life in the wild comes with its share of dangers. The Common Mormon Butterfly, like other butterflies, has predators such as birds and spiders.

To protect themselves, they have developed several defense mechanisms, including their camouflaging wing patterns and swift flight patterns, which help them escape from potential threats.

Mimicry and Camouflage

One of the remarkable aspects of this butterfly is its ability to blend in with its surroundings. They employ mimicry and camouflage as defense strategies, where their wing patterns resemble those of other, more toxic butterflies, thus deterring predators from attacking them.

Learn more about these defense mechanisms in our article on are monarch butterflies poisonous

Diurnal Activity Patterns

The Common Mormon Butterfly is diurnal, which means it is most active during the day. You can spot them fluttering around gardens and meadows in the daylight hours, soaking in the sun and flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar.

Role in the Ecosystem

Papilio polytes sitting on flower

In the vast web of life, each creature, big or small, plays a vital role. The Common Mormon Butterfly is no different. Its presence in the ecosystem is marked by a series of interactions and contributions that help maintain a balance in nature.

In this section, we will discuss the various roles that this butterfly plays in its ecosystem.


One of the most crucial roles that the Common Mormon Butterfly performs is pollination. As the butterfly flutters from flower to flower sipping nectar, it facilitates the transfer of pollen, aiding in the reproduction of many flowering plants.

This process is vital for the survival of these plants and helps in maintaining the green cover of our planet.

Prey and Predator Dynamics

Being a part of the food chain, the Common Mormon Butterfly has its share of predators and prey. In its larval stage, it feeds on the leaves of various plants, forming a link in the plant-animal interaction.

Simultaneously, it serves as a food source for various predators like birds and spiders, contributing to the predator-prey dynamics in the ecosystem.


The presence of the Common Mormon Butterfly adds to the biodiversity of an area. Its various life stages, ranging from eggs to adults, provide different levels of interaction with other species, thereby enhancing the richness of life in that habitat.


Butterflies, including the Common Mormon, can serve as bioindicators, helping us gauge the health of an ecosystem. Their presence or absence can indicate the state of the environment, helping in conservation efforts and maintaining the balance of nature.


While not directly an ecological role, the beauty of the Common Mormon Butterfly attracts nature enthusiasts, photographers, and tourists. This, in turn, promotes ecotourism, fostering a love for nature and encouraging conservation efforts.

Cultural Significance and Folklore

The delicate fluttering of the Common Mormon Butterfly has captured the human imagination for generations. In different cultures, it holds various significances, often seen as a symbol of beauty, transformation, and renewal.

In this section, we will uncover some of the charming stories and cultural perspectives surrounding this butterfly.

Symbol of Transformation

Across many cultures, butterflies are revered as symbols of transformation and change, owing to their remarkable life cycle from a caterpillar to a graceful butterfly.

The Common Mormon Butterfly, with its vibrant wings and graceful flight, embodies this spirit of transformation, inspiring people to embrace change with beauty and grace.

Stories in Art and Literature

The Common Mormon Butterfly has been a subject of fascination in art and literature. Its vibrant colors and patterns have inspired artists to capture its beauty on canvas, creating artworks that are a testament to nature’s splendor.

Similarly, writers have woven tales around this butterfly, using it as a metaphor for beauty, freedom, and the ephemeral nature of life.

In Religious Texts and Mythologies

Butterflies have been mentioned in various religious texts and mythologies as creatures of significance. In some cultures, they are seen as messengers of the divine, bringing news from the heavens.

The appearance of a Common Mormon Butterfly can sometimes be interpreted as a good omen, signifying positive changes on the horizon.

As a Teaching Tool

The life cycle of the Common Mormon Butterfly is often used as a teaching tool in schools to educate children about the wonders of nature.

It serves as a practical example to illustrate the concepts of metamorphosis and adaptation, helping young minds to appreciate the intricacies of the natural world.

Common Mormon Butterfly Identification Guide

Being able to identify the Common Mormon Butterfly amidst the myriad of fluttering wings in nature is an exciting skill to have.

This section serves as a guide to help you distinguish this particular butterfly with ease. We will explore its physical attributes, the various forms it takes, and the subtle differences between males and females.

Physical Attributes

Understanding the physical attributes of the Common Mormon Butterfly can help you identify it easily in its natural habitat. Let’s go through the key characteristics that make it stand out:


The Common Mormon Butterfly boasts a significant wingspan that ranges between 90-100mm. Its large size is one of the first indicators of its identity, setting it apart from other smaller butterfly species.

Wing Color and Patterns

This butterfly is known for its stunning wing patterns. It primarily exhibits black to dark brown wings adorned with white streaks and spots, creating a visually striking contrast. The vibrant patterns are not just for show, as they help in camouflaging and protecting them from predators.

Forms and Varieties

Interestingly, the Common Mormon Butterfly exhibits different forms, especially in females, which display a remarkable variety in their wing patterns and colors. These forms are a result of its mimicry behavior where they resemble other butterfly species to deter predators.

Male vs. Female Identification

Identifying males and females can be a little challenging given the variations in forms. However, there are subtle differences that can help you distinguish between the two:


Males generally have a more uniform appearance with lesser variations in wing patterns. They exhibit a sleek black body with a series of white streaks and spots on their wings, giving them a distinctive appearance.


Females, on the other hand, exhibit more variations in their wing patterns and colors, adapting different forms to blend in with their surroundings. These forms are primarily characterized by additional streaks and markings on their wings, adding to their beauty and allure.

Tips and Suggestions for Observing the Common Mormon Butterfly

Observing the graceful Common Mormon Butterfly in its natural habitat is a rewarding experience.

In this section, we will provide you with some handy tips and suggestions that will enhance your butterfly-watching adventures, allowing you to appreciate the beauty and behaviors of this species up close.

Best Time for Observation

Morning Hours

Early mornings are usually the best time to observe these butterflies. During this time, they are busy feeding on flowers and are more likely to be spotted flitting around gardens and meadows.

Sunny Weather

These butterflies are more active during sunny weather. On bright days, you can find them basking in the sun, showcasing their vibrant wings in all their glory.

Choosing the Right Location

Flower Gardens

Common Mormon Butterflies are attracted to flower gardens where they can find a plentiful supply of nectar. Visiting gardens with a variety of flowering plants can increase your chances of spotting them.

Nearby Forests and Meadows

These butterflies are also commonly found in forests and meadows. Taking a walk in such natural habitats can be a good way to observe them in a more tranquil setting.

Equipment and Tools


Having a pair of binoculars can enhance your observation experience. It allows you to watch the butterflies from a distance without disturbing them.

Notebook and Pen

Keeping a notebook and pen handy can be useful to jot down your observations, helping you keep a record of the different behaviors and characteristics you notice.

Observing with Patience

Butterfly watching requires a bit of patience. Sometimes, you may need to wait quietly for the butterflies to appear. Being patient allows you to witness some of their more subtle behaviors.

Creating a Papilio Polytes Butterfly-Friendly Habitat in Your Garden

Inviting the gorgeous Common Mormon Butterfly to your garden is a rewarding endeavor. In this section, we’ll guide you through simple steps to create a habitat where these butterflies can thrive, adding a splash of color and life to your garden.

Step 1: Choosing the Right Plants

Nectar-Rich Flowers

Plant flowers rich in nectar to attract adult butterflies. Consider planting a variety of flowers, including marigolds, lavender, and lantanas, to offer a continual bloom throughout different seasons.

Host Plants

In addition to nectar-rich flowers, include host plants where females can lay their eggs. Citrus plants such as lemon and lime trees are favorites for the Common Mormon Butterfly.

Step 2: Providing Fresh Water

Shallow Water Dishes

Place shallow dishes with fresh water in your garden. Butterflies often gather at shallow water sources to drink and replenish their energy.

Mud Puddles

Creating mud puddles is another excellent way to provide water and essential minerals to these butterflies. They often gather in mud puddles to extract minerals from the soil.

Step 3: Creating Sheltered Spaces

Bushes and Shrubs

Planting bushes and shrubs can provide sheltered spaces where butterflies can take refuge during adverse weather conditions. These areas offer protection and a safe space to rest.

Leaving Leaf Litter

Leaving a bit of leaf litter on the ground creates a natural habitat for butterflies to lay their eggs and offers hiding spots for larvae and pupae.

Step 4: Avoiding Pesticides

Using pesticides in your garden can be harmful to butterflies. Avoid using these chemicals to create a safe and thriving habitat for the Common Mormon Butterfly and other wildlife.

Step 5: Observing and Enjoying

Once your garden is set up, take time for quiet observation. You’ll be rewarded with the sight of these butterflies fluttering around, and you might even witness different stages of their life cycle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the lifespan of a Common Mormon Butterfly?

The lifespan of a Common Mormon Butterfly typically ranges from two to four weeks in their adult stage. During this time, they focus on reproducing and feeding on nectar from various flowering plants to sustain their energy.

What kind of plants do the larvae feed on?

The larvae of the Common Mormon Butterfly primarily feed on the leaves of citrus plants. These include lime, lemon, and other plants belonging to the Citrus genus. This diet helps them grow and metamorphose into the stunning butterflies they are destined to be.

Are there any specific predators that pose a threat to the Common Mormon Butterfly?

Yes, the Common Mormon Butterfly faces threats from a variety of predators at different stages of its life cycle. Birds, spiders, and mantises are known to prey on them, with birds being the primary predators during their adult stage.

How do Common Mormon Butterflies communicate?

Common Mormon Butterflies, like other butterfly species, communicate using a variety of sensory cues. They utilize visual signals, chemical pheromones, and even vibrations to communicate with each other, especially during mating rituals.

What is the significance of the different forms in females?

The different forms in female Common Mormon Butterflies are a remarkable example of Batesian mimicry, where they mimic other unpalatable butterfly species to deter predators. This evolutionary adaptation helps in increasing their survival rate in the wild.


Our journey through the fascinating world of the Common Mormon Butterfly, scientifically known as Papilio polytes, comes to an end.

Through this detailed guide, we have ventured into various aspects of this magnificent butterfly, appreciating its beauty, understanding its biology, and learning ways to observe it in its natural habitat.

From the mesmerizing transformation they undergo during their life cycle to the distinguishing features that make identification a breeze, we have unraveled the wonders that surround this butterfly species.

Equipped with this knowledge, we hope that your encounters with the Common Mormon Butterfly become even more enriching and delightful.

Our guide also served as a beacon for budding butterfly enthusiasts, offering tips and suggestions to enhance their butterfly-watching experiences.

We learned to create butterfly-friendly habitats right in your gardens, fostering a space where these beautiful creatures can thrive and flourish.

Thank you for joining us on this enlightening journey, and we hope this guide serves as a valuable resource in your butterfly-watching adventures. Happy butterfly watching!

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