Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Scarce Swallowtail:
Scarce Swallowtail
Iphiclides podalirius (Linnaeus, 1758)

Scarce Swallowtail egg.
  Scarce Swallowtail caterpillar.
  Scarce Swallowtail chrysalis
Scarce Swallowtail
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Papilionidae: Subfamily Papilioninae : Genus Iphiclides: Species podalirius:
The Scarce Swallowtail is a large distinctive butterfly, pale yellow/cream base colour boldly marked with black tiger-like stripes running from the leading edge of the forewings. The hindwings have orange and blue eye-spots and long tails making this a distinctive species which cannot be confused with any other species. In flight it is extreamly graceful and a joy to watch as it swoops, glides and flutters. Dispite its size and apparent fagility, it is magestic in flight, even on a breezy day.

A somewhat missleading name, the Scarce Swallowtail is infact quite common in central and southern Europe. The name 'Scarce' is the result of its status in the UK as it was at one time believed to be a very rare resident in Britain (Carter 1982) but is now known to be a very rare migrant. There is some confusion with this species. Those found in Spain and Portugal are often refered to as the Spanish Swallowtail or Spanish Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii), while butterflies from across the rest of Europe are known as Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius).

The solitary larvae spin silk pads known as resting sites on leaves of the foodplant. When the larvae venture off to feed, they use silk strands in order to trace their steps back to the resting site. The silk contains what is known as a unique volitile marker. This marker ensures that the larvae returns to its own rest site after feeding.
Essentially a lowland species, usually associated with orchards, it can be found in hot, bushy places, flower meadows and clearings, roadside verges. It may also be seen 'hill-topping' on hot sunny days.
Extinct in England as a breeding species c1850. The Scarce Swallowtail is an extremely rare migrant to Britain although any sightings which do occur may just as likely to be the result of accidental import or release by breeders.

The species feisthamelii occurs in Spain and Portugal and the extreme south of France around Roussillon, while ssp. podalirius is widespread in southern and central Europe.
Where to see the Scarce Swallowtail in the British Isles
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Scarce Swallowtail in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Not Applicable Not Applicable

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Rare Migrant
Larval foodplants
The larvae feed on Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Cherry (Prunus cerasus), Bullace (Prunus domestica) and Wild Plum (Prunus domestica).
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
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Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 not applicable
UK Population trend 1976-2004 not applicable

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not applicable (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Scarce Swallowtail except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Scarce Swallowtail on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Scarce Swallowtail can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Scarce Swallowtail can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Scarce Swallowtail
Image ID BB1661 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Debbie Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail female (imago)
BB1661 ©
Image ID BB1406 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail (imago)
BB1406 ©
Image ID BB1405 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail (imago)
BB1405 ©
Image ID BB1404 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail (imago)
BB1404 ©
Image ID BB1403 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail (imago)
BB1403 ©
Image ID BB774 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail unknown (imago)
BB774 ©
Image ID BB773 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail unknown (imago)
BB773 ©
Image ID BB772 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail unknown (imago)
BB772 ©
Image ID BB771 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail unknown (imago)
BB771 ©
Image ID BB770 - Scarce Swallowtail - © Steven Cheshire
Scarce Swallowtail unknown (imago)
BB770 ©
There are 17 photographs of the Scarce Swallowtail in our stock photo library.
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