Swallowtail Caterpillar on Cyprus

Swallow Tail?
Location:  Yenibogazici, Northern Cyprus
October 5, 2010 2:52 am
I can tell from your wonderful site that this is a swallow tail, but which one. It’s pattern doesn’t seem to match with any pics.
Signature:  Senny

Swallowtail Caterpillar: Papilio machaon

Hi Senny,
We just learned on the Butterflies of Cyprus website that
Papilio machaon is the only Swallowtail on Cyprus and that it is “Common throughout most months of the year and widely distributed throughout the island.”  The EuroButterflies website has images of the caterpillar that look exactly like your photo, and they indicate the caterpillars feed on “many species of the Umbelliferae (Carrots) and Rutaceae (Rues).”   You may also read more on the UK Butterflies website.  It is listed on the Butterflies and Moths of North America website where it is called the Old World Swallowtail, but it is unclear if it is considered an introduced species, however this information on the larval foods is interesting:  “Sagebrushes (Artemisia species), including Arctic wormwood and wild tarragon, rarely plants in the parsley family.”  Finally, the Butterflies of Europe website has interesting information, including this:
“Throughout most of it’s range the Swallowtail shows itself to be highly adaptable, utilising a wide variety of habitats including sub-arctic tundra in Canada, prairies, woodlands and arid canyons in the south of the USA; hay meadows, roadside verges, river banks and sub-alpine pastures in Europe; high montane habitats in the Atlas mountains of north Africa, and semi-cultivated habitats in the Mediterranean area.
It’s adaptability extends also to it’s choice of foodplants – in North America the caterpillars usually feed on Compositae ( Artimesia, Petasites ), while in Europe Rutaceae ( Ruta, Haplophyllum ) and Umbelliferae ( Foeniculum, Peucidanum etc  ) are used instead. In Britain however the butterfly is restricted to a single foodplant – milk parsley, and breeds only at a very small number of wet fenland habitats in north-east Norfolk. Individual specimens have been tagged and found to fly over quite a large area, often reaching adjacent fens, but the butterflies do not stray beyond the general area of the broads.
Several centuries ago the species almost certainly occurred as a resident species over a much wider area of southern and eastern England, but later contracted it’s range to the Great Fen – a vast area of wetlands covering Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Following the drainage of this area, and it’s conversion to agriculture, the butterfly was forced to contract it’s range even further – to the Norfolk Broads. In such isolation the genetic diversity would have diminished, causing the so-called “sub-species” machaon brittanicus to become far less adaptable, and to acquire minor differences in appearance from the ancestral stock.

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