In search of the rare celebrity who calls The Norfolk Broads its home

PUBLISHED: 11:28 13 June 2015 | UPDATED: 09:17 14 June 2015

Norfolk Swallowtail

Norfolk Swallowtail

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Regular columnist and photographer Steve Plume shares a stunning set of photographs of the beautiful Norfolk butterfly - the Swallowtail.

Where and when to spot the butterfly


Head to the Norfolk Broads - Hickling, Catfield, How Hill, Wheatfen and Strumpshaw Fen are all hot spots


Now is the best time to spot the Swallowtail

After hatching in May, numbers of the butterfly are at their highest in June

Choose a bright, warm and still day for the best chance of seeing them

As the weeks progress and the weather plays its part they start to loose their shine

During the end of June through July keep your eyes open for the larva which are equally spectacular. After its third molt it has a bright orange pair of horns.

I’ve had a bit of a challenge this week - spotting a local celebrity.

In fact, the Swallowtail butterfly is so much of a celebrity and so synonymous with Norfolk that I wonder why Norwich’s promoted football team don’t drop the name Canaries and use Swallowtail.

I know people that travel from all points of the compass to see these large and most colourful butterflies and there is still a chance of seeing one if the recent storms haven’t done too much damage.

Norfolk SwallowtailNorfolk Swallowtail

The Swallowtail is the largest butterfly in the UK and along with a few others is very rare.

The British variety subspecies britannicus is only found in the Norfolk Broads, and as with all species its relationship with its food plant is the key, Milk Parsley.

This week the forecast was good for my challenge.

A bright ward and reasonably still day was predicted so I awoke to clear skies and a super sunrise. My destination was one of the hotspots around the broads, Strumpshaw Fen.

Now those that know me, know that I don’t twitch but I have become a ‘flutterer’, if that’s what you call a butterfly photographer, and it was no surprise that as the day progressed the amount of people keen to see this specimen had increased filling all available parking.

I was lucky enough to watch eight specimens over different parts of the reserve, gliding over the reeds, fending off rivals and maintaining territory.

Swallowtail - the facts

• Swallowtails are the largest butterfly in the UK

• Females can have a wingspan of up to 93mm and males 83mm

• Although extremely rare in Britain it is solely restricted to the Norfolk Broads

• It is widespread in other parts of Europe, Africa and Asia

• Adult Swallowtails live for a month

• Caterpillars will only eat the foliage of a group of plants called umbellifers - which include carrot, fennel and angelica, although they have a known preference for milk parsley

• Adults feed on nectar from a variety of flowers

• Its name refers to the extensions on the hind-wings which look similar to a swallow’s tail

• Its ‘tails’ and false ‘eyes’ on the hind-wing mirror the head and antennae of the butterfly, confusing predators

If you have any wildlife stories that could be photographed please contact me via further images available at

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