The swallowtail family of butterflies include the largest butterflies in the world. The common yellow swallowtail here is a widespread species, through Asia, Europe and North America. The image here is from the Island of Rhodes in Greece, but a subspecies of the same occurs in India.

common yellow swallowtail, papilio machaon

It is interesting to note that in some species of the papilionidae family of butterflies, the males glue the female genital tract after mating. Mating plugs, as they are called, assures sperm storage without any loss, and also has a role in preventing the females from remating- a function to enhance male control over females in copulation. Not sure if the yellow swallowtails have this capability.

Meanwhile, the caterpillars of the common yellow swallowtails have special tactics to detract enemies. They have an eversible (turn inside out) cervical gland called osmeterium, which produces acidic secretion effective in defense against ants.

common yellow swallowtail, papilio machaon

The common yellow swallowtails are bi/trivoltine, as they have 2 or 3 broods per year. The number of broods decrease for the species found from the tropics to subtropics and far north. This is probably due to the fact that the emerging time of the butterflies from its pupa depends on the temperature outside. If it is warm, it may come out in a couple of weeks but if it is cold, it may take up to several months for the butterfly to emerge.

common yellow swallowtail, papilio machaon

Species: Papilio machaon, Common Name: Common Yellow Swallowtail, Family: Papilonidae
Date: 20 Sept 2008
Location: Island of Rhodes, Greece.
Camera: Nikon D80 + Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens


  1. Eisner T, Meinwald YC (1965) Defensive secretion of a caterpillar (Papilio). Science 150 (3704):1733-1735
  2. Lung O, Wolfner M (2001) Identification and characterization of the major Drosophila melanogaster mating plug protein. Insect biochemistry and molecular biology 31 (6):543-551

Others in the papilionidae family:

papilio_polytes_stichius_003 * Common Mormon, female, form stichius. papilio_polytes_stichius just out of its pupa. @ home, Kottayam, Kerala.        papilio_polytes_stichius_005 * Common Mormon butterfly        blue_mormon_001 * The blue mormon butterfly, papilio polymnestor, on an ixora flower.

Related posts