Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne)

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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.

25460_male_Alpes-Maritimes_08Jun11 13003_male?_Valais, Switzerland_15Jul08 40793_male?_Alpes-Maritimes_29Jun16
40795_pair, male above_Alpes-Maritimes_29Jun16 21261_female?_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul10 21269_female_Alpes-Maritimes_3Jul10
 
40792_male?_Alpes-Maritimes_29Jun16 21270_female_Alpes-Maritimes_3Jul10  

The third of the Parnassius genus that occur in France, the other two being the Apollo (P.  apollo) and Small Apollo (P. phoebus). I am not sure how to determine the sex of mnemosyne, as T&L gives two illustrations of a male upperside and none of a female, unless (as is likely) one is mis-labelled. H&R, however, states that the female is similar to the male although the markings are more extensive, and that the upper surface (dorsum) of the abdomen is black and glabrous (free from hair).

 

It is a butterfly of the mountains but not necessarily very high altitudes, Lafranchis giving the minimum altitude as 700m. I first saw mnemosyne in Switzerland in 2008, the battered individual 13003. It has a fairly early flight period, May-June, so showing wear by early July and clearly 13003 was at the very end of its flight period. I next saw mnemosyne in several locations in the Alpes-Maritimes in 2010, mostly singles, but several were flying in one location.

The French population of mnemosyne has been divided in six separate subspecies, the subspecies which occurs in the département of Var being cassiensis. There is one historic location, but there were doubts as to whether it still occurred there; however, in 2016 a Marseille-based friend of mine (CJ) made the arduous journey to this remote location and confirmed that a healthy colony still continues there.

 

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. The mnemosyne female sphragis is particularly large. An example of this can be seen on 21269 and 21270.

 
ref sex

observations

alt. m
25460 M a much fresher male than the others on this page, being seen earlier in the flight period. 1400
13003 M

possibly a male, as the abdomen is hairy and the female abdomen is described as hairless. Often, though, individuals at the very end of the flight period will be females.

1700
40793 M? I believe this to be a male on the basis of the extent of the upperside black markings - the male is less heavily marked than the female - and the extent of the apical region that is devoid of scales, where, again, the male has a smaller area than the female. However, I have limited experience of females, hence the lack of confidence. 40792 is the underside. 1550
40795 PAIR a pair engaged in courtship. The male is above the female here. 1550
21261 F

this may be a female based on the body width and lack of hair, and the heavier markings on the uph.

1400
21269 F

this is clearly a female as the sphragis is clearly visible at the end of the abdomen.

1400
40792 M? the underside of 40793. 1550
21270 F

this is the same butterfly as 21269 and this side view better shows the sphragis and its size.

1400

 

25460_male_Alpes-Maritimes_08Jun11

 

13003_male?_Valais, Switzerland_15Jul08

 

40793_male?_Alpes-Maritimes_29Jun16

 

40795_pair, male above_Alpes-Maritimes_29Jun16

 

21261_female?_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul10

 

21269_female_Alpes-Maritimes_3Jul10

 

40792_male?_Alpes-Maritimes_29Jun16

 

21270_female_Alpes-Maritimes_3Jul10