Not only is the Mocker Swallowtail one of the biggest and most beautiful butterflies to be found in South Africa, but it can also be one of the most confusing! The males, also known as Flying Handkerchiefs, boast extravagantly shaped wings with striking black and cream-white markings, while the females are excellent at mimicking at least 14 other species of foul-tasting or poisonous butterfly across their sub-Saharan African distribution, with their comparably larger size usually the best clue to their true identity. Adults have a wingspan measuring up to 11cm and fly throughout the year, though much less numerous in the cooler months.
The Mocker Swallowtail inhabits riverine, montane and coastal forests. In South Africa it is commonly found from the Garden Route, through Kwazulu-Natal and along the escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo to the Soutpansberg range.
Larvae feed on a wide range of food plants from the Rutaceae family which includes citrus plants. The feminine progeny of a single female can metamorphose into a variety of mimic forms and don’t necessarily all look like their mother. Larvae grow quickly and complete their transformation within a few weeks.