Papilio machaon, also known as the Old World swallowtail or common yellow swallowtail, is a large and colorful butterfly species found throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the swallowtail family, and is characterized by its distinctive yellow, black, and white wings, which have a wingspan of about 80 to 100 mm.

The preferred habitat for Papilio machaon is open areas with plenty of food plants and nectar sources, such as meadows, fields, and gardens. They are most commonly found in temperate regions with cool, moist climates.

The temperature and humidity requirements for Papilio machaon depend on the life stage of the butterfly. The eggs, caterpillars, and pupae can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and humidities, but the adult butterflies are more sensitive to these conditions and prefer a moderate temperature (around 24°C) and relative humidity of 50-70%.

The host plants for Papilio machaon caterpillars are typically plants in the Apiaceae family, such as parsley, fennel, and dill, and they also feed on other plants in this family, such as carrots and celery. The adult butterflies feed on a variety of nectar sources, including flowers such as thistles, clovers, and milkweeds.

The life cycle of Papilio machaon consists of four stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult butterfly. 

At a constant temperature of 24°C, the duration of each stage is as follows:

  • Egg: The eggs of Papilio machaon are small and yellow, and are usually laid singly on the underside of the host plant leaves. The eggs hatch within about a week.
  • Caterpillar: The caterpillars of Papilio machaon are green or brown with yellow and black markings, and are about 4-6 cm long when fully grown. They feed on the host plant leaves for about 4-6 weeks before pupating.
  • Pupa: The pupae of Papilio machaon are brown or green and are about 3-4 cm long. They are usually found attached to a stem or leaf of the host plant. The pupal stage lasts about 2-3 weeks.
  • Adult butterfly: The adult butterflies emerge from the pupae after about 2-3 weeks. They have a lifespan of about 2-4 weeks, during which they mate, lay eggs, and feed on nectar.

Papilio machaon overwinter as pupae, and the adult butterflies emerge in the spring when the weather warms up.

To breed Papilio machaon at home, you will need to provide the following:

  • A suitable habitat: This should be a spacious, well-ventilated enclosure with a consistent temperature of around 24°C and a relative humidity of 50-70%.
  • Host plants: You will need to provide a supply of fresh, healthy Apiaceae plants for the caterpillars to feed on.
  • Nectar sources: You will also need to provide a variety of nectar sources for the adult butterflies to feed on, such as flowers, fruit, and sugar water.
  • Egg-laying sites: The female butterflies usually lay their eggs on the underside of the host plant leaves, so you will need to provide plenty of these for the eggs to be laid on.

To care for the eggs and caterpillars, you will need to check the plants regularly and remove any eggs or caterpillars that are found on plants that are not suitable for their development, such as non-Apiaceae plants.

The caterpillars should be fed fresh, healthy host plant leaves every day, and the enclosure should be kept clean and free of debris. If the caterpillars are kept in a separate enclosure from the adult butterflies, you should provide a source of light to mimic natural daylight conditions.

When the caterpillars are ready to pupate, they will spin a cocoon or pupate directly on the host plant. You should provide a suitable pupation site for the caterpillars, such as a stem or leaf of the host plant.

To care for the pupae, you should keep the enclosure clean and free of debris, and provide a consistent temperature of around 24°C and a relative humidity of 50-70%. You should also provide a source of light to mimic natural daylight conditions.

When the adult butterflies emerge from the pupae, you should provide them with a variety of nectar sources, such as flowers, fruit, and sugar water. You should also provide plenty of clean water for the butterflies to drink from.

It is important to monitor the health of the butterflies and the enclosure regularly, and to take action if any issues arise, such as disease or pest infestations. You should also keep a breeding diary to record important information, such as the number and health of the eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adult butterflies, as well as the temperature, humidity, and other conditions in the enclosure.

We hope this information is helpful, and that it gives you a good overview of the steps involved in breeding Papilio machaon at home. Good luck with your breeding endeavors!

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