Iphiclides podalirius

Scarce Swallowtail


by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2024

Show butterflies of: EU US
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Valais, Switzerland, May 2013

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Valais, Switzerland, April 2017

Field notes and information

Common and frequently encountered, it is a large spectacular species, found in gardens and towns as well as the countryside. It is the butterfly I'm most frequently asked to identify via e-mail as it impresses holiday makers and naturalists specialising in other groups and inspires them to find out more.

Identification & Similar species: A very large distinctive butterfly. It is creamy white with black tiger stripes. It can be confused with the swallowtails, Papilio. They have a strong yellow ground colour.

Distribution & Flight: Across most of Europe, excluding Scandinavia and the UK. Throughout the warm and hot months of the year.

Habitat & Behaviour: Diverse open habitats, gardens, towns. It is often seen "sailing" on its large triangular shaped wings catching the up draughts on hills - they can soar effortlessly for ages without any wing beats at all. Can be found at alpine levels even above 2000m, but usually in foothills and lower levels.

Females are often seen flying around potential larval food plants - particularly blackthorn Prunus spinosa and fruit trees, in scrubland, open orchards, hedgerows or isolated bushes. They arrive downwind of the bush and float around looking for egg laying sites. It is possible to get very close to these females intent on laying.

Variation: feisthamelii: a subspecies from north Africa, Spain and southwest France. It is often considered to be a separate species. See next species page for more info.

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Alpes Maritimes, France, May 2012

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Peloppensos, Greece, July 2018

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S Greece, July 2018

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Sicily, Italy, May 2018

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S Greece, July 2018

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Rhodes, Greece, May 2017

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NW Greece, July 2016

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Valais, Switzerland, 1st April 2007

An early individual.

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S Greece, July 2018

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Valais, Switzerland, April/ May 2012

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Valais, Switzerland, May 2014

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Valais, Switzerland, April/ May 2012

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Alpes Maritimes, France, May 2012

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Peloppensos, Greece, June 2013