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Common Mormon | by Ajith (അജിത്ത്)
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Common Mormon

The Common Mormon Papilio polytes is a common species of swallowtail butterfly widely distributed across Asia. This butterfly is known for the mimicry displayed by the numerous forms of its females which mimic inedible Red-bodied Swallowtails, such as the Common Rose and the Crimson Rose.


The common name is an allusion to the polygamy formerly practiced by members of the Mormon sect according to Harish Gaonkar, of the Natural History Museum in London:[1]


...the origins of giving common English names to organisms, particularly butterflies for tropical species started in India around the mid 19th century ... The naming of Mormons evolved slowly. I think the first to get such a name was the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes), because it had three different females, a fact that could only have been observed in the field, and this they did in India. The name obviously reflected the ... Mormon sect in America, which as we know, practiced polygamy.


The scientific name is constructed from the Latin word for butterfly, papilio, and the Greek word for many, poly




The Common Mormon is fond of visiting flowers and its long proboscis permits it to feed from flowers having long corollar tubes. It is particularly fond of Lantana, Jatropha, Ixora and Mussaenda in city gardens. In the forests, the Common Mormon remains low keeping within ten feet off the floor and its prefer to visit Asystasia, Peristrophe and Jasminum for nectar.


The male Common Mormon is a very common visitor to gardens where he will be seen hovering over flowers when the sun is shining. It is a restless insect, zig-zagging fast and straight close to the ground, settling down only when it halts to feed.


The mimic female Mormons, stichius and romulus are very convincing mimics due to their habits, especially the flight patterns, being very similar to those of the Rose models. However, lacking the protection of inedibility, they tend to be more easily disturbed than the Roses and fly off erratically .


Only the males take part in mud puddling, usually in cool shaded spots rather than in open areas. They have been known to collect on saline soils to extract minerals.Both sexes bask in the sun on shrubs close to the ground. They hold their wings flat against the substratum. The forewing is lowered to cover part of the hindwing and is a typical stance of the Common Mormon.


The Common Mormons spend the night settled on vegetation with their wings held open, usually quite close to the ground.




Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, southern and western China (including Hainan (Guangdong province), Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, Andamans, Nicobars, Eastern and Peninsular Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia (except Moluccas and Irian Jaya), Philippines, Northern Marianas (Saipan).



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Taken on April 8, 2008