Papilio indra phyllisae

Phyllis' Indra Swallowtail

This subspecies of the prized Indra Swallowtail is a butterfly of the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, with a Type Locality of Butterbredt Peak in Kern County. Ken Davenport has called it "perhaps the most highly sought butterfly in southern California" (Emmel 1973 update in the Taxonomic Report, 4/7, p.4). It flies (roughly April to August) along rocky slopes, usually on the southwestern side, as at Bald Mountain off Sherman Pass Road in Tulare County, which is where I was able to find it. The very black wings and relatively narrow, pale bands distinguish it from other swallowtails that may be hilltopping (most other indra subspecies have even narrower bands than those of phyllisae). Phyllisae uses a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), the aromatic Tauschia parishii, as host. Interestingly, where the range of this plant ends and that of Cymopterus terebinthus begins, we have a different indra subspecies - the nominate indra - on that plant.

Indra larvae go through five instars quickly - before the plants are desiccated - and pupate, generally eclosing the following spring. However, some may emerge later in the summer or fall as a small second brood if conditions allow it. Phyllisae was named by John Emmel after his wife, Phyllis, in 1981. The paper can be found here.

'Phyllis' Indra Swallowtail - Papilio indra phyllisae
This Papilio indra phyllisae was one of two on patrol at Bald Mountain on July 29, 2017. The other was much more ragged.
'Phyllis' Indra Swallowtail - Papilio indra phyllisae
Two years later, I revisited Bald Mountain and found 5 or 6 Papilio indra phyllisae at the same place - not at the summit, but just below, on the white scree slope to the west, battling for territory. This one was cooperative and the least worn of the group. July 16, 2019.

©Dennis Walker