Utah Lepidopterists' Society

Founded 6 Nov 1976

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Utah Butterfly and Skipper Species' Descriptions

Papilio indra minori 

Mesa rim cliff swallowtail

Adults (click on image for larger picture.) Lower right specimen approaching kaibabensis phenotype. Mature Larva (Photo courtesy Vernon Evans)
Example of habitat (click on image for larger picture.) Example of hostplant--Lomatium junceum


       The Type Locality of P. indra minori is Black Ridge Breaks, Mesa County, Colorado; Cross 1936. Minori is one of the most beautiful races of P. indra in Utah. Its large size with long tails combined with thin to intermittent cream bands and generous blue dorsal hindwing scales are diagnostic. Adults display a significant amount of individual variation. The bands on some individuals of minori are completely obsolete; showing the phenotype of what essentially is a black and blue swallowtail. It is the opinion of the author that this form kaibabensis which most authorities treat as a distinct subspecies really is a genetic drift morph of minori for two reasons. First, the kaibabensis form appears at least seldomly in mostly all minori populations. Again, its just an example of individual variation. Second, the habitat and bionomics of the two taxa are virtually indistinguishable.

       Males hilltop on the tops of reefs, buttes, or even sheer peaks in search of females. In fact, minori males have shown intense aerial battles against one another in competition for females. Females, on the other hand, oftentimes fly in lower portions of buttes, or even in desert floors or swells in search of its larval hostplant. (Females only hilltop once to mate.) It is multivoltine depending upon rainfall; with up to three broods per year.

Utah Distribution and Habitat:

       The distribution of minori in Utah is extensive. According to Dr. W.H. Whaley, over 50 distinct colonies can be found over Central to South-Southeastern Utah badlands (Utah Canyonlands.)  This distribution includes, but is not limited to, the West Tavaputs Plateau, Cedar Mountain, San Rafael Swell, San Rafael Reef, Capitol Reef National Monument, Henry Mountains, Cockscomb Ridge, La Sal Mountains, Abajo Mountains, and Monument Valley south to Northern Arizona.


       The larval hostplants of minori differ depending upon venue. In the San Rafael Swell, Cedar Mountain, San Rafael Reef, Capitol Reef National Monument areas, larvae utilize Lomatium junceum (rush lomatium--see photos above and below.) At the Cockscomb Ridge, Monument Valley, and Abajo Mts, larvae use Lomatium parryi (parry desert parsley.) Also at Monument Valley and areas adjacent to Moab, larvae use Cymopterus terebinthinus (rock springparsley.) All of these larval hostplants are unique because they, for the most part depending upon rainfall, stay green and healthy from spring until fall; which accounts for the butterfly's ability to have multiple generations in one year.        

       The ova is yellow-green; developing rings and then turning black before hatching. The young larva is black with a white saddle. It is interesting to note that young minori larvae have a broader white saddle than young indra indra larvae have. The large mature larva is gorgeously arrayed with bright pink and black stripes strewn with orange dots. Immatures, unfortunately, are heavily subjected to several varieties of parasites. Egg parasites have recently been discovered in addition to the ever-so-prevalent small wasp parasites that kill third instar larvae and maggot parasites that kill fifth instar larvae. Hibernation is as pupa.

Dr. Whaley and Dale Nielson check Lomatium junceum plant for P. indra minori larvae down in Utah's San Rafael Swell.


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 subspecies of P. indra from Dr. Wayne Whaley

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