Apollo (Parnassius apollo)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

17946_male?_Isère_11Jul09 7995_male_Isère_5Jul07 25721_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12Jun11
26143_male_Alpes-Maritimes_02Jul11 33245_female_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_1Jul13 33242_female_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_1Jul13
25728_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12Jun11 12350_female?_Isère_10Jul08 2093_female_Isère_30Jun06

An amazing butterfly of mountainous regions. You would not forget the first time you saw one, and it rightly has iconic status in the Alpes. Its hairiness, body size, wing shape and markings make it appear to be a throwback to prehistoric insects, unrelated to today’s delicate little creatures. However, it glides effortlessly over mountain slopes in a way that transfixes the watcher. Although it is threatened in France and protected in many European countries, I have found it not uncommon in areas such as the Vercors, the Pyrénées and the Alpes-Maritimes. The markings are very variable, with many different local forms, especially the red spots and sometimes the underside veins are clearly yellow (e.g. 25728). The wings tend to have a waxy appearance when worn, through loss of scales, although the forewing margins are usually devoid of scales even in fresh specimens, but it does not seems to affect its flight. The only other non-Parnassius species that has the same waxy appearance is the Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi).

The female is usually larger, sometimes with a greyish suffusion, and with larger red spots and sometimes additional red spots on the upf post-discal area and the uph near the anal angle. Apollo is superficially very similar to the Small Apollo (P. phoebus) with which it often flies. A brief description of the differences is given on the phoebus page.

 

The females of all three French Parnassius species have a device at the end of the abdomen to prevent mating when it has already done so, called a sphragis. I believe it to be a waxy substance applied by males after copulation which then hardens. I am not sure how large the apollo sphragis is, although the Clouded Apollo (P. mnemosyne) sphragis is particularly large; an example can be seen on the mnemosyne page.

 

A superb video of the life-cycle of apollo has been produced by Filming VarWild and can be viewed on YouTube here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP7SUaG6a8Y

ref sex

observations

alt. m
17946 M

a male, mainly based on body shape and the fact that it is puddling (taking salts). The absence of scale loss suggests that this is a very fresh specimen.

1120
7995 M

a male, based on the body shape and general shape and size of the black marks, as indicated by the illustrations in T&L.

900
25721 M a male, freshly emerged and with a slight yellowish tinge. 1080
26143 M a male. 1400
33245 F a slightly sombre female. 33242 is the underside 1250
33242 F a female, the underside of 33245. 1250
25728 M a male, the underside of 25721, showing the strong yellow colouration that was to a lesser extent apparent on the upperside. 1080
12350 F

again, guessing that this is a female based on body size.

1120
2093 F

the unh spots are quite dark red, especially in the basal area, perhaps more noticeable as this was quite a fresh specimen. I'm guessing that it is female based on body size, but the behaviour (sitting on the road) maybe indicates male, although for no convincing reason. It has the unfortunate habit of settling on mountain roads, which does not help its threatened status.

1020

 

17946_male?_Isère_11Jul09

 

7995_male_Isère_5Jul07

 

25721_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12Jun11

 

26143_male_Alpes-Maritimes_02Jul11

 

33245_female_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_1Jul13

 

33242_female_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_1Jul13

 

25728_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12Jun11

 

12350_female?_Isère_10Jul08

 

2093_female_Isère_30Jun06