Family - PAPILIONIDAE
Parnassius apollo alpherakyi, Monts
© O. Kosterin
Parnassius, known commonly as Apollos,
comprises of 53 species. Three of these are endemic to North
America, a further 2 are found both in North America and the
Palaearctic, and the remainder are distributed variously across
Europe and temperate Asia.
are instantly recognisable as a genus, having rounded translucent
whitish wings that in most species are adorned with prominent
white-centred red ocelli. Unlike most other Papilionidae they have
short antennae with non-recurved tips.
Many Parnassius species are exceedingly
rare and have a very localised distribution, but
P. apollo is very widespread, being
found Spain to Siberia.
This species breeds on rocky mountainsides and limestone pavements,
typically choosing sites where there are flat boulders on which they
can bask, and crevices or hollows in which they can hide during bad
weather. The butterflies are generally found at altitudes between
about 600-2800m, although they occur at lower altitudes in Provence
and in Spain.
The larval foodplants include Sedum,
Males sometimes imbibe mineralised moisture from damp ground, but in
common with the females are more often seen in flight, or when
nectaring at flowers, of which favourites include
Sedum, and various thistles ad knapweeds.
The butterflies have a rapid flight, soaring effortlessly across
mountainsides. Their robust and stiff wings make a distinct flapping
noise as they fly past. In warm sunny conditions they fly actively
from flower to flower, but will sometimes remain on a single
flower-head for several minutes at a time. In cooler weather they
often bask on lichen-encrusted rocks and boulders, on which they can
maintain a very strong grip, even in very windy conditions.
Copulation takes place at about midday, and lasts for about 2 hours,
or longer if weather conditions are cooler. During copulation the
females develop a large chitinous structure called a sphragis on their
abdomens, which seals the genital opening and prevents other males
from mating with them.