Papilio machaon — “Old world swallowtail”

Papilio machaon, the old world swallowtail, is a specie of swallowtail that occurs in Europe, Africa, Asia and even North America (paradoxally despite it’s name referring to the “old world”). It is a medium sized swallowtail that is relatively easy to rear in captivity.

Freshly emerged P.machaonpmachaon

This Papilionid utilised host plants of mainly the parsley family (Apiaceae) – including fennel (Foeniculum), dill (Anthenum), parsnip (Pastinaca), carrot (Daucus), parsley (Petroselinum) and more.  Many of the host plants are considered herbs or vegetables and are widely available for human consumption in grocery stores. Be aware of insecticides/pesticides when using host plant that is commercially grown. Plants from the Ruteacea may also be accepted, like Rue (Ruta graveolens).

The caterpillars start out as predominantly black with a single white stripe, but as they grow they gradually become more colourful. The final instar is green, covered with black stripes and orange dots. They are quite easy to keep in captivity, if one rule is taken into consideration: the caterpillars don’t really tolerate being reared in boxes. They need to be able to free-roam om the host plant. Potted plant is best for this. This applies to all Papilio’s in general: they must be reared freely on a healthy plant.

L4/;5 caterpillars feeding machaons

Papilio machaon overwinters as pupa. The pupae may be green, grey or brown. This specie has usually one generation per year although more may occur if the temperature allows it.

Colour variety in pupaemachaon pupae

Pretties!machaons Young caterpillar roaming dillkleine ruposUnderside of P.machaonmachaon underside



One thought on “Papilio machaon — “Old world swallowtail””

  1. Hi There. Do you supply/sell moths butterflies etc.?
    Happy to pay via pay-pal if we can work a happy deal.
    I have all Bio Security forms etc available and for Australia
    and have been operating over 30 years(breeding,selling,protecting,
    teaching etc). Also a professional saxophone musician.(saxman)

    Best regards…..Jim.Moffett


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The aim of this website is to provide information about many species of moths and butterflies around the world, with a slight focus on rearing them in captivity.

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