Back Malabar Banded Peacock
Compiled by Boominathan M

Malabar Banded Peacock is one of the most dazzling butterflies' in the world and also rated as the third most beautiful butterfly in India. Its flight is extremely swift; possibly swifter than that of any other Peacock butterflies. It is a true favourite of the butterfly collectors. This Swallowtail butterfly is endemic to the Western Ghats and is found essentially between southern Goa and northern Kerala. The scientific name of this butterfly is Papilio buddha Westwood which denotes the three names in sequence, representing the genus, species and the author, respectively (Blyth, 1982).


Classification is useful to identify and differentiate one species from another. To begin with, all animals are classified under the kingdom called Animalia and subsequently, “jointed-legged” animals are grouped in the phylum called Arthropoda. To distinguish insects from animals, there is a further categorisation of Arthropoda into a class called Insecta and an order called Lepidoptera, and Swallowtail butterflies are grouped into the family called Papilionidae. This family has the least number of species (700) in the world (4% of butterflies, globally). Malabar Banded Peacock belongs to this family (S. Ali, 2004., Kunte, 2000).

The Malabar Banded Peacock is classified thus;

Kingdom            - Animalia
Phylum               - Arthropoda (“jointed-legged” animals)
Class                  - Insecta (insects)
Order                 - Lepidoptera (“scaly-winged” insects)
Family                - Papilionidae (Swallowtails)
Genus                 - Papilio
Species               - buddha
English Name      - Malabar Banded Peacock


The peripheral of its wing is black with a central blue band. Depending upon the angle of incident light, the wings show variegated shades. The underside of the wings is black. The male and female are alike in colouration. The wingspan varies from 90-100 mm.

Photo source: S. Ali, 2004

Life cycle:

The life cycle has four stages, viz. egg, larva, pupa and adult.

The Egg stage:

The egg is laid on a tender shoot or on the upper side of a mature leaf. It is spherical and plain lemon yellow in colour when laid. Later, it develops with a rusty-brown coloured band at the centre.

The Larva (Caterpillar) stage:

The larva (caterpillar) hatches out from the egg. It is greenish-yellow in colour with olive-green dorsal and lateral bands. In subsequent instars, it develops with white spiracles along an irregular line. Finally, the larva turns dark-green in colour with a yellow band and yellow spots all over its body. The osmeterium is reddish.

                                                          Osmeterium   True legs      Prolegs      Claspers

Length of caterpillar: 46 mm.

True legs are used to grip the leaves on which the larva feeds . Prolegs and claspers help in holding at the time of rest. The leaves of the larval host plant, Zanthoxylum rhetsa , are often marked with yellow specks. The green caterpillar, speckled with yellow, easily camouflages on such leaves.

The Pupa (Chrysalis) stage:

The pupa (Chrysalis) is made on the underside of a leaf or a twig, usually on the host plant itself. The pupa is dark green in colour with a black spot on the sixth segment. There are conical projections in front of the eyes. The thorax is humped. The length of the pupa is 32 mm.

The Adult stage:

The adult emerges out from the pupa at the commence of monsoon. They, being butterflies, can be observed in the monsoon and the post-monsoon months. The male butterfly is active in the noon and afternoons but females do not fly during the hot sunny hours. This species produces probably only one brood per year. Malabar Banded Peacock is largely attracted by the shrubs Lantana (Verbenaceae) and Clerodendrum paniculatum (Verbenaceae)


                                                  Photo source:

Threats to butterflies:

•  Illegal export of butterflies for ornamental purposes.

•  Habitat destruction, and degradation.

•  Grazing and fires.

Conservation measures:

Conservation implies ‘protection against extinction'. Conservation measures include the protection of forest and grassy banks from encroachment, and creating butterfly parks and gardens through planting butterfly larval host plants. In urban areas, gardens with larval host (eg: Zanthoxylum rhetsa ) and adult nectar plants (eg: Lantana and Clerodendrum paniculatum ) can attract many butterflies. This procedure can also be implemented in the home gardens to attract butterflies (S. Ali, 2004).


Endemic - Restricted to a particular region.

Spiracular - An external respiratory opening in insects.

Osmeterium – A bifid protrusible gland, which gives out a strong repulsive odour.

Camouflage – Merging with the background.

Thorax – The second section of a butterfly's body, bearing the wings and legs.

Swallowtail – Small tail like extensions on the hind wings.


  1. Krushnamegh Kunte (2000) India-A Lifescape Butterflies of Peninsular India . University Press (India) Limited, Hyderabad. Page – 78-80.
  2. M.A. Wynter-Blyth (1982) Butterflies of the Indian Region . Today and Tomorrow's   Printers and Publishers, New Delhi. Page – 390.
  3. Sameer Ali (2004)  

Address for Correspondence:

Energy and Wetlands Research Group,
Centre for Ecological Sciences,
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore -12.