Graphium macleayanum (Leach, 1814)
Macleay's Swallowtail
(previously known as Papilio macleayanus)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stewart Newman & Stella Crossley

Graphium macleayanum
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

This species was probably named after Alexander Macleay, a great international entomologist, and at that time (1814) the chairman of the Linnean Society of London. Later he emigrated to Australia, taking his great insect collection with him, and using it to found the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney.

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. It feeds on the foliage various species of Australian native trees in MONIMIACEAE including :

  • Tasmanian Sassafras ( Atherosperma moschatum ),
  • Socketwood ( Daphnandra micrantha ),
  • Australian Sassafras ( Doryphora sassafras ),
  • Diemen Pepper ( Tasmannia lanceolata ),

    and various other subtropical trees in LAURACEAE including :

  • Camphor Laurel ( Cinnamomum camphora ),
  • Rose Maple ( Cryptocarya erythroxylon ),
  • Domatia Tree ( Endiandra discolor ),

    and also

  • Glasswood ( Geijera salicifolia, RUTACEAE ).

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 4 cms.

    Graphium macleayanum
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The pupa is green with thin pale lines and a peaked thorax. It suspended from a cremaster and girdle on the underside of foodplant leaf.

    Graphium macleayanum
    (Photo: courtesy of Rosemary Robins, Eureka, New South Wales)

    The adult butterflies have a wing span around 8 cms. The upperside of the wings is green with black and white markings. Unusually for butterflies. the legs are also green.

    Graphium macleayanum
    (Photo: courtesy of Di Donovan, Beecroft, New South Wales)

    Males congregate around hilltops, where they can be seen defending their territory from rival males and courting passing females. We used to watch them flying above the eucalypts at the highest point of a local hill. They rarely came down to a catchable height.

    Graphium macleayanum
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The undersides are green with black and brown margins.

    Graphium macleayanum
    camouflaged adult feeding on nectar,
    on Pittosporum undulatum, Kulnura ridgeline, New South Wales.
    (Photo: courtesy of Boris Branwhite, Wyong Shire, New South Wales)

    Various races have been described, including:

  • insulanum (Waterhouse, 1920) on Lord Howe Island,
  • macleayanum in Queensland, and New South Wales, and Victoria,
  • moggana Couchman, 1965, in Victoria and Tasmania.

    ( Australia Post, 1981)

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

    (Courtesy : Instant Scratchies)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 256-258.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 30, 64, 66.

    William Elford Leach,
    Zoological Miscellany; being Descriptions of New, or Interesting Animals,
    Volume 1 (1814), p. 17, and also Plate 5.

    Gustavus Athol Waterhouse,
    Descriptions of new forms of butterflies from the South Pacific,
    Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales,
    Volume 45 (1920), p. 470.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 22 December 2012, 24 February 2014, 12 May 2015, 8 June 2020)