Macleay's Swallowtail butterfly Click to enlarge image
Graphium macleayanum Macleay's Swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly species identified by the tails on its hind wings and the green colour on the undersides of its wings. It also has green legs that match its wings. Image: Steven McIntosh
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    macleayanum
    Genus
    Graphium
    Subfamily
    Papilioninae
    Family
    Papilionidae
    Super Family
    Papilionoidea
    Order
    Lepidoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    5.3 cm - 6.0 cm

Introduction

Macleay's Swallowtail, Graphium macleayanum, is a beautiful butterfly species identified by the tails on its hind wings and the green colour on the undersides of its wings. Most of the butterflies in this family are large in size and with brilliant colours. They are called Swallowtails because some of species have tailed hindwings.

These stunning butterflies often feed on flowers with their wings rapidly vibrating.

Habitat

Macleay's Swallowtail lives in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath.

Distribution

The Macleay Swallowtail is native to the wetter coastal and mountain parts of eastern Australia, from northern Queensland south to Victoria and Tasmania. It also occurs on Lord Howe Island and in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Seasonality

The Macleay's Swallowtail is commonly seen in urban Sydney from August to April.

Feeding and diet

The caterpillars of Macleay's Swallowtail have adapted to feed on a variety of plants including the introduced Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora). Their caterpillars eat Sassafras leaves.

Life history cycle

The eggs are round and pale green. They are laid singly on young shoots of a food plant.

The Caterpillar is green with a humped thorax. Initially it has a black hump and a black forked tail. Later it becomes plain green with small white dots over the body, and two narrow yellow lines along the back.

Breeding behaviours

Males congregate around hilltops, where they can be seen defending their territory from rival males and courting passing females