The Old World Swallowtail (Papilio Machaon) is widespread and common throughout most of the northern hemisphere. Although in some countries, the Swallowtail and its subspecies are endangered. Papilio machaon is protected by law in six provinces of Austria, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova. The species is protected in the United Kingdom, and subsp. Papilio verityi is protected in India.
Swallowtail are highly adaptable, utilising a variety of habitats including:
• Sub-arctic tundra in Canada
• Prairies and woodlands in the south of North America
• Hay meadows, roadside verges, river banks and sub-alpine pastures in Europe
• High montane habitats in the Atlas mountains of North Africa
• Semi-cultivated habitats in the Mediterranean area
When Linnaeus first created the System Naturae, Papilio was the only genus name used for every species of butterfly. Things have been a bit more organized since then! Only about 215 of the 17600 currently known species have remained in Papilio genus.
Plant It and They Will Come!
Female’s seek out plants of family Umbelliferae and Asteraceae family to deposit eggs on, as it is their favourite food. The food plants of the swallowtail North America are more varied than in the UK.
• Wild carrot / Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
• Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris)
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
• Hogweeds (Heracleum)
• Wormwood or sagebush (Artimesia)
• Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
• Cow parsnip (Heracleum)
The young caterpillar is black, marked with a stripe of white. It looks strangely like bird poop as it sits on leaves. When mature in July, it is a most colorful – bright green, marked with narrow black bands and orange spots. Behind it’s head is an eversible fleshy pink forked structure called an osmaterium, which is raised if the larva is alarmed. This organ emits pungent chemicals, capable of deterring ants, wasps and flies, however not birds, who find them a nice snack.
The chrysalis is attached vertically by a thin silken thread, usually low down on the stem of the host plant, where it hibernates until the following spring.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plants