Papilio machaon


Britain's largest butterfly, the Swallowtail is striking and exotic-looking. Adults fly between May and July when they can often be seen flying powerfully over reedbeds or feeding on Ragged-robin or flowering thistles, while Fennel is a commoner host plant for migrants. They are restricted to reedbeds and marshlands in the Norfolk Broads. Very rarely, migrants from the Continent appear on downland in southern England. The foodplant of the caterpillars of the native British race is Milk Parsley, whereas migrants may feed on Wild Carrot.

How to identify

Unmistakeable: the Swallowtail is a large butterfly which has creamy-yellow wings with heavy black veins and blue margins. It has distinctive long 'tails' and the hindwings have a red spot.

Where to find it

Found only in marshland in the Norfolk Broads.

When to find it

  • May
  • June
  • July

How can people help

The Norfolk Broads is an inland waterway and a very special area of fen, marshland and reedbed; along with the Suffolk Broads, it is the UK's largest protected area of wetland and has National Park status. Many organisations and individuals work together within the Park to conserve and enhance its rare habitats for the benefit of both wildlife and people. Norfolk Wildlife Trust is one of these partners and has a number of nature reserves in the area which it protects for local wildlife like the Swallowtail butterfly. Become a member and support the work of your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Papilio machaon
Butterflies and moths
Wingspan: 6-8cm
Conservation status
Common but localised.