Utah Lepidopterists' Society

Founded 6 Nov 1976

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Utah Butterfly and Skipper Species' Descriptions

Papilio indra UT West Desert segregate

West Desert indra swallowtail

Adults Mature Larva

Example of habitat (click on image for larger picture) Example of hostplant--Lomatium grayi var. "depauperatum"


       Currently this race is being named and described as a subspecies by Dr. Wayne H. Whaley in press. This butterfly was originally noticed but undescribed by Col. C.F. Gillette prior to 1986.  In 2000, this race was unofficially designated by Whaley as "nigricampe."   For years, local collectors have referred to this butterfly as "West Desert indra.

        Utah west desert indra is short to medium tailed, and has one flight per year. The strength of the flight varies depending upon winter precipitation. At 5000', it generally flies from mid to late April through to mid to late May.   The presenter of this paper agrees with Wayne Whaley in describing this race as a valid subspecies for the following reasons: First, west desert indra is geographically isolated from calcicola, nominate indra, and nevadensis. Second, calcicola and nevadensis hardly ever have short-tailed morphs; west desert indra does. Third, over a long series, west desert indra has consistently more blue in the dorsal hindwings as compared to calcicola, nevadensis or indra indra.  Fourth, some west desert indra females exhibit extremely wide dorsal forewing bands that rival the width of specimens of P. indra fordi. Fifth, calcicola documented larval hostplant Lomatium scabrum grows where bonnevillensis flies. However, to date, west desert indra immatures have not been found using L. scabrum. Sixth, mature larvae of west desert indra are drastically different to Washington County calcicola. 

Utah Distribution and Habitat:

       Colonies of this segreate of P. indra exist in many North-South ranges in Utah's West Desert including but not limited to the Dugway Range, Thomas Range, Fish Springs Range, House Range, Cricket Range, Confusion Range, Wah Wah Mountains, and Little Drum Mountains. All of these mountain ranges contain Limestone and exist in the vicinity of what was Lake Bonneville. These limestone hills is where the larval hostplant grows. 


       The larval hostplant is Lomatium grayi var. “depauperatum.”  This plant seems to die off faster than any other host of indra. A first instar larva has perhaps one of the most slender white saddles as compared to other subspecies of indra. As the larva matures, this saddle has been known to disappear altogether. Third instar larvae change their resting position to the base of the hostplant where they are difficult to find. The mature larva has two basic forms from mostly black with tiny yellow dots to black with medium cream bands.

Todd Stout 

All images of Limenitis weidemeyeri on the ULS Info Bar courtesy Jay Cossey

More in depth analysis of the taxonomy, host plants, and gene pool of this soon-to-be named subspecies of P. indra from Dr. Wayne Whaley  


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