Parides agavus (agavus cattleheart)

The Natural History Museum is home to several specimens of Parides agavus collected in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

This beautiful butterfly prefers to live in areas of dense vegetation with little light, where the caterpillars feed on plants from the family Aristolochiaceae.

Many plants from this family contain aristolochic acids, which are toxic to many mammals, but can be tolerated and stored by Parides agavus.This may act as a protective measure against potential predators.


This species is relatively common and is not thought to be threatened according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list criteria (Collins and Morris, 1985).

But it is possible that it may be under threat in the future due to extensive logging of forests in South America, especially in the Brazilian forest where forest is being converted to agricultural land (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2009).

Species detail

  • Parides agavus

    Parides agavus was first described by Drury in 1792 from specimens collected in Brazil. Find out more.

  • Parides agavus

    Parides agavus occurs in South America. Discover where the butterflies like to live, and where the Museum’s specimens were collected.

  • Parides agavus

    The caterpillars of this butterfly species feed on plants that contain acids that are toxic to mammals, but not to Parides agavus. Find out how these chemicals may protect the caterpillars from predators.

  • Parides agavus

    Parides agavus is a strong flier, but tends to stay close to home. Find out more.


Parides agavus

Parides agavus aberration aurimaculatus male.

Parides agavus

Parides agavus female underside.

Parides agavus

Parides agavus female upperside.

Parides agavus

Parides agavus male underside.

Parides agavus

Parides agavus male upperside.

About the authors

Anna Platoni
Volunteer - Lepidoptera
Department of Entomology


Blanca Huertas
Dr Blanca Huertas

Curator of the Museum's Lepidoptera collections.

A word from the authors

"Parides agavus is a stunning and beautiful but strong butterfly. Its caterpillars feed on plants that are poisonous for other organisms such as mammals, plus adults are distasteful for predators."

Share this