Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults diurnal; large to very large; relatively very short-bodied; relatively slender-bodied (wingspan more than 15 times the thoracic width) to medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width); wings in repose apposed vertically over the back.

Head rough. Antennae very short; extending to about 0.25–0.35 times the length of the forewing; inserted markedly less than one half the width of the head apart; clubbed. The club gradual, or gradual to abruptly terminal (the club sometimes curved, flattened or not). Antennae of males simple; non-ciliate. Eyes glabrous. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata present. Maxillary palps much reduced to absent; if detectable, 1 segmented. Labial palps ascending (appressed to frons); 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan (40–)78–100(–108) mm; 15–17 times the thoracic width. Forewings broad; 1.3–1.7 times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at about (90–)100–115 degrees. The outer margin convexly curved to concavely curved, or sigmoid-curved; forewings apically blunt; ground colour predominantly white or cream, or yellow, or grey; forewings without eye-spots above. Hindwings broadly rounded (the inner margin concave); similar in breadth to the forewings; tailed, or not tailed; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above; with the conventional lepidopterous lines and discal marks lacking or more or less obscured; without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 11 veined (Parnassius), or 13 veined; without basally dilated or vesicular veins (or with slight dilation, in Iphiclides); with 1 anal vein, or with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c, or comprising 1a and 1b. Forewings lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings simple. The transverse vein complete. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Vein 2 of the forewings departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (from about halfway). Hindwings 8 veined; with 1 anal vein, or with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c. Hindwings lacking vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c; with a discal cell. The transverse vein complete. Hindwings with a praecostal spur. The hindwing cell bearing a pecten of hairs on its cubital margin, or without a cubital pecten of hairs; emitting more than six veins, or emitting no more than six veins. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell (in Parnassius), or 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another, or 3+4 proximally joined, or 4+5 proximally joined (then these connate only). Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (from near its base); not approximating to vein 7.

Adults having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs of female operational for walking. Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs without spurs. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened (sub-globular); smooth or minutely pitted. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae with a pair of tentacles from segment 2 (these retractile); without bristly spines; exposed feeders; not feeding in communal tents. On Umbelliferae (P. machaon), woody Rosaceae (Iphiclides), Aristolochiaceae (Zerynthia) and Crassulaceae (Parnassius).

Pupae ridged and angular, or smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned, or plain; exposed, with no coccoon, or concealed (more or less, in Parnassius); in Papilio not suspended, but attached at the tail and secured by a median girdle of silk; in Parnassius, above the ground.

British representation. Genera 4; 5 species (including 4 adventives). Iphiclides (Papilio) podalirius (Scarce Swallow-tail, adventive), Papilio machaon (Swallow-tail), Parnassius apollo (Apollo, adventive), Parnassius phoebus (Small Apollo, adventive), Zerynthia (Thais) polyxena (Southern Festoon, adventive), rumina (Spanish Festoon, adventive).

Classification. Butterflies. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Papilionoidea.

Illustrations. • Papilio machaon (Swallow-tail: British and mainland-European subspecies): photos. • Papilio machaon (Swallow-tail: Hübner/Curtis). • Iphiclides podalirius (Scarce Swallow-tail: Hübner/Curtis). • Iphiclides podalirius (Scarce Swallow-tail): photos. • Larvae and pupae of Iphiclides podalirius and Papilio machaon (Duponchel, 1849). • Swallow-tailed and Apollo: Newman. • Parnassius apollo (Apollo): photos. • Parnassius apollo (Apollo: Shaw & Nodder, about 1803). • Parnassius phloebus (Small Apollo: Kirby). • Zerynthia rumina (Spanish Festoon: Kirby). • Zerynthia polyxena (Southern Festoon: Hübner).

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.