Papilio machaon mating, Crete - photo © Ch. Almpantakis

Papilio machaon mating, Crete - photo © Ch. Almpantakis

Papilio machaon


Papilio machaon is a butterfly of the family Papilionidae on the island of Crete, Greece.

Scientific name

Papilio machaon (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name

Swallowtail, Old World Swallowtail


Family: Papilionidae> Subfamily: Papilioninae > Tribus: Papilionini > Genus: Papilio


Male to female: 70-80 mm


Males and females have a similar appearance. In general, Papilio machaon has yellow wings with black vein markings.

The upper side of the forewing is black in the basal area; there are smaller black bands in the discal and postdiscal area and a long band in the submarginal area.

The upper side of the hindwing has a long black band with six blue markings and large orange-red eyespots in the submarginal area.

The dorsal view of both wings is similar to the ventral view, respectively, but the black color is more greyish.

The hindwings of both sexes have a pair of protruding tails.


The butterfly has a characteristic powerful gliding flight and is capable of covering large distances. When nectaring they keep their wings constantly fluttering to prevent the weight of their bodies from dragging down on the fragile flowers. The long tails and the orange marks create the image of a false head in the opposite direction to the real head. The birds usually attack the false head and the butterfly survives.


Papilio machaon in Crete lives in dry sunny slopes, fields, gardens, glades, meadows, from seaside to mountains.

Food plant

The larva feeds on Apiaceae and Rutaceae plants.

Flight period

The butterfly flies in 2-3 generations per year.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

The butterfly has a unique appearance in Crete and can’t be confused with other butterflies of the island. Along with Iphiclides Podalirius are the largest butterflies flying on the island.


Least Concern (LC)

(*European Red List of Butterflies, 2010)

Papilio Machaon Distribution Map

*based on

Papilio machaon location map based on greek butterflies distributions map by L.N. Pamperis (revised 2021)

Other Papilionidae Species in Crete