We have recently shown that the Japanese yellow swallowtail butterfly Papilio xuthus uses colour vision when searching for food. In the field, these butterflies feed on nectar provided by flowers of various colours not only in direct sunlight but also in shaded places and on cloudy days, suggesting that they have colour constancy. Here, we tested this hypothesis. We trained newly emerged Papilio xuthus to feed on sucrose solution on a paper patch of a certain colour under white illumination. The butterflies were then tested under both white and coloured illumination. Under white illumination, yellow- and red-trained butterflies selected the correctly coloured patch from a four-colour pattern and from a colour Mondrian collage. Under four different colours of illumination, we obtained results that were fundamentally similar to those under white illumination. Moreover, we performed critical tests using sets of two similar colours, which were also correctly discriminated by trained butterflies under coloured illumination. Taken together, we conclude that the butterfly Papilio xuthus exhibits some degree of colour constancy when searching for food.

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