Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillars from Israel

Subject: Judean Swallowtails
Location: Judean Desert, Israel
March 22, 2015 1:49 am
Hi Bugman,
On my hiking trip last week in the Judean Desert, I noticed a bunch of these colorful caterpillars on one specific bush. Didn’t see them anywhere else in the area.
Some research identified them as common yellow swallowtails, Papilio machaon.
Signature: Ben from Israel

Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillar
Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Ben,
It is nice to hear from you again. 
Papilio machaon is also found in North America where it is called the Old World Swallowtail, even though BugGuide notes that it is:  “Holarctic, with a very wide distribution in boreal and temperate Eurasia and in western North America.”  Because of the wide range with different climactic conditions and food plants across the range, BugGuide indicates:  “The various subspecies included here under the name Papilio machaon have been (and contunue to be) treated differently by different authors. The most commonly seen alternate classification would have the subspecies bairdii, dodi, oregonius, and pikei placed as subspecies of a distinct species Papilio bairdii, and the more boreal subspecies would be left under the species Papilio machaon. There are good reasons for doing this, but the majority of workers currently place them all under one species. There are also still some people who would prefer to see each name treated individually at species ranking, though this is not widely accepted practice. The result is that these butterflies may be listed under a number of different name combinations, depending upon the preferences of the individual author.”  From the Grapevine has a page of Israel’s Ten Most Beautiful Butterflies that has a lovely image of the Old World Swallowtail.  Since food plants tend to differ with the range, do you know the plant upon which these caterpillars were feeding?  By the way, please include larger digital files in the future if possible.

Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillars
Yellow Swallowtail Caterpillars

Hi Daniel,
I saw the caterpillars on just that one plant, and it wasn’t in flower so identifying it is difficult. However, I believe it to belong to the Resedaceae family, possibly Reseda stenostachya.
I can send larger files if you want, let me know!

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