Abstract Due to the risk of extinction and ornamental value of the swallowtail butterfly, Sericinus montelus Gray (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) in China, knowledge about local adaptations is important for the conservation and economical utilization of the species. In the present study, photoperiodic diapause induction and diapause intensity of S. montelus populations from Jiamusi (46°37′N), Beijing (40°15′N), Zibo (36°48′N), Fangxian (32°36′N), Wuhan (30°33′N) and Huaihua (27°33′N) were characterized at 25°C. Logistic regression analysis revealed a significant population × hours of light interaction, confirming that photoperiodic responses varied among populations. The critical photoperiod was positively correlated with latitude and increased toward the north at a rate of about 1 h for each 6.67 degrees of latitude. Survival analyses indicated that survival time of diapausing pupae before adult eclosion differed significantly among populations at 25°C and 16 : 8 L : D h. The mean duration of pupal diapause was also positively correlated with latitude. Our study reveals geographic variation in the critical photoperiod for diapause induction and in diapause intensity of S. montelus. These results provide useful information for our general understanding about seasonal adaptation in insects and may also be used to predict how geographic populations respond to climate warming.