Swallowtail Butterfly

the beautiful black and yellow swallowtail butterfly

The Swallowtail Butterfly is the UK's largest and rarest butterfly and is only found in the Norfolk Broads.

The Swallowtail Butterfly Papilio machaon britannicus is our largest native butterfly but also our rarest. It is currently restricted to the Norfolk Broads in East Norfolk. It's bright yellow wings make it stand out and seeing them flying over the reed beds is a sight to behold with visitors coming from all over just to spot this beautiful butterfly.

It's rare status is due mainly to the fact the plant it lays it's eggs on is also rare and restricted mainly to this area of Norfolk. Milk Parsley is the sole food plant of the Swallowtail caterpillars and since much fenland management ceased after the Second World War, much of its habitat has been lost.

Today conservation management of fenland areas is carried out in the Norfolk Broads, in which annual or rotational cutting of reed and segde takes place and allowing other plants, such as Milk Parsley, to grow. This makes the future of the Swallowtail Butterfly look brighter. In some fenland areas of Cambridgeshire, conservation efforts are being made to reintroduce the Swallowtail Butterfly in the near future.

When can you see a Swallowtail Butterfly? 

The adult butterflies emerge from late-May to mid-July and are best seen on warm and still days. There is also sometimes a second brood from mid-August through to September. You can spot Swallowtails right here at Horsey Windpump as they are often seen feeding on flowers in our wildlife garden.