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Butterflies of temperate Asia
American Apollo
Parnassius clodius  MNTRIS, 1855
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
subfamily - PARNASSIINAE
Tribe -
Parnassius clodius, Sherman Pass, Kernville, California, USA Frank Model
Introduction
The genus 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.
Parnassius 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 there are a few widespread species e.g. apollo which is distributed from Spain to Siberia; and eversmanni, which is found in Alaska and across much of temperate Asia.
Parnassius clodius occurs as 9 subspecies in British Columbia, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Idaho and Nevada. It has also been dubiously recorded from Alaska, possibly due to a mislabelled museum specimen.
Habitats
This species inhabits dry alpine meadows and grasslands, large glades on open coniferous forest, often on windswept plateaux at or above the tree line.
Lifecycle

The egg is brown and spherical. It is laid singly in vegetation in the vicinity of the larval foodplants. When fully grown the larva is plump and black, with a pair of narrow broken yellow dorso-lateral lines. It feeds diurnally on Dicentra ( Fumariaceae ), and is unpalatable to birds and reptiles. The pupa is reddish-brown and is formed on the ground among leaf litter. Parnassius clodius is believed to be biennial at higher altitudes, spending the first winter as an egg, and the second winter as a half-grown larva.

Adult behaviour

Males sometimes imbibe mineralised moisture from damp ground, but in common with the females they are more often seen in flight, or when nectaring at flowers, of which favourites include Sedum Centaurea and Cirsium.

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.

Females are grabbed in flight by the aggressive males which force them to the ground, flip them on their sides, and wrestle them into a position whereby copulation can take place. Copulation occurs at about midday. During copulation the female develops a large chitinous structure called a sphragis on her abdomen. This seals the genital opening to thereby preventing her from mating again.

 

 

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