Our Wild Neighbors

Old World Swallowtail Butterfly

Papilio machaon

A fan of plants from the carrot family that has become increasingly rare

Image of a Old World Swallowtail Butterfly, dried and mounted, seen from above with its wings spread.

Description of the animal

  • Yellow butterfly with black edges.
  • Wingspan from 51 to 95 mm.
  • Each hind wing features several blue flecks and a red eyespot.
  • Filigree-thin, club-ended antennae.
  • Green-ringed caterpillar with black and orange spots.

Habitat and needs

  • Frequents a number of different habitats but prefers hilltops and cliffs.
  • Is diurnal, i.e. active during daylight hours.
  • Lays eggs on plant leaves that newly hatched caterpillars will feed on. When feeling threatened, the caterpillar emits a foul odour.
  • Flies by gliding long distances.
  • Winters in a chrysalis state.
  • Reproduces two or three times per year, depending on the environment.


  • No known negative impact.
  • Very diversified species, the Old World Swallowtail Butterfly is however becoming less and less common. As with other diurnal butterflies, it is a bio-indicator of environmental quality.
  • Pollinating species.

Living with them

  • To attract them:
  • Plant umbelliferous plants (i.e. plants from the carrot family like fennel or dill, for example) that females prefer for laying their eggs.
  • Plant nectar flowers – they love them!
  • Do not use pesticides or other chemical products.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen