It seems odd to think that I took this photo less than a week ago as today it is grey, cold and raining- not just raining but absolutely chucking it down. I wonder where the butterfly is now. Is it still alive or is it a wet and bedraggled remnant of its former glory and being battered in some large puddle?
It was/is a Papilio machaon, subspecies gorganus, and they are fairly common in southern France. In Britain Swallowtails are very rare and only found in Norfolk where their food plant the Milk Parsley grows. The British butterfly is also Papilio machaon but is subspecies britannicus and is slightly darker than the European species. The caterpillar of the swallowtail we see in Poitou-Charentes feeds on a wider range of plants than the more fussy British species. It will feed on wild carrot which is very common here and was my wildflower of the month for September.
There is another Swallowtail in France and that is called the Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalinus). Despite its name it is not scarce- in fact it is probably more common than the ordinary Swallowtail.
If the weather remains as it is you may want to have a look at this origami site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhf_rbGnZbM which will enable you to make some swallowtail butterflies and while away the odd half hour. After all you won’t want to be out in the garden – not if it stays as it is at the moment!