Home / Swallowtail (Papilionidae) / Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

Old World Swallowtail

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Common names: Common yellow swallowtail, swallowtail
  • Scientific Name: Papilio machaon


The Old World Swallowtail is a species of very brightly-colored, medium-sized butterflies that are found in the entire Palearctic region in 37 recognized subspecies.

This member of the swallowtail butterfly family has not been noted as of concern; however, it is relatively rare or uncommon.

Description and Identification


Old World Swallowtail Caterpillar


The mature larva has a soft green body, with each segment divided by black lines. The segments also have alternate dots of black and yellow, rendering them a very bright coloration.


Old World Swallowtail Pupa


The chrysalis of this swallowtail butterfly is light brown and dark gray with whitish marks and spots throughout the body, enough to camouflage in the twigs and branches in the wild.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: Not present

Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal side of the hindwings has reddish-orange eyespot close to the tail with black along the lower border that touches the inner edge of the pair of hindwings, which also has circular blue marks along the border. The forewings primarily have a white base with vein-like markings in dark gray. When the wings are closed, it is primarily white with the impression of the vein-like marks similar to the dorsal side. The ventral side also bears the two orange marks at the lower tips of the hindwings.

Old World Swallowtail Butterfly


Papilio machaon


Average wingspan: 2½ – 3 inches (6.5 – 7.5 cm)

Flight pattern: Moderate


Old World Swallowtail Eggs


White to reddish white, laid singly on host plant

Quick Facts

Distribution From Russia to China, Japan, Taiwan, parts of India (including the Himalayas), and across Alaska, Canada, and the United States
Habitat Sunny open lands, forest edges, gardens
Lifespan of adults Varies between subspecies
Host plants Milk parsley (or, marsh hog’s fennel) is normally the only food plant
Adult diet Flower nectar

Did You Know?

  • The specific name machaon comes from the Greek character Machaon, a son of Asclepius, in the works of poet Homer.
  • Though the term ‘Swallowtail’ is a common name applied to all members of the family, this species was the first to get the name.
  • The Old World Swallowtail is the type species of the entire genus Papilio.
  • It is the largest resident butterfly of UK.

Female Old World Swallowtail


Male Old World Swallowtail


Old World Swallowtail Habitat



Old World Swallowtail Images


Old World Swallowtail Pictures


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Common names: Common yellow swallowtail, swallowtail
  • Scientific Name: Papilio machaon