Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena)

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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.

24191_male_Var_18Apr11 31745_male_Var_21Apr13 31883_male_Var_25Apr13
40225_male_Var_22Apr16 9733_female_Var_13Apr08 9757_female_Var_13Apr08
10361_female?_Var_7May08 9960_female_Var_23Apr08 24126_female_Var_16Apr11
 
40268_larva_Var_23Apr16 32111_hostplant_Var_9May13  

I first saw polyxena in April 2005, five or six individuals nectaring on a sunny bank. This was a "life tick" (a first ever sighting)  and, I don't need to emphasize, a great thrill as it had been on my "must see" list for some time.

 

It has a characteristic short "buzzy" flight and never seemed to go more than a few metres, settling on low vegetation. However, having spent the spring in Var for the past ten years, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of possible sites for polyxena and its close relative the Spanish Festoon (Z. rumina), and found them at most sites, so I now believe both of these species are quite widespread although rarely in large numbers. The polyxena larval hostplant Aristolochia rotunda (common name: Round-leaved Birthwort) (see 32111) seems to be quite plentiful in this region.

I believe that all polyxena in this region are of the subspecies cassandra that occurs in southern France, more heavily marked generally, and with more extensive red uph submarginal marks.

 

It has a very early flight period, emerging at the beginning of April, or even earlier, and has largely disappeared by the end of the first week in May. As such, its flight period seems to be about a week or so ahead of rumina. It is magnificent when fresh but seems to be prone to losing scales, especially the red and blue scales, rather quickly and then having a dullish appearance. It appears almost black in flight, the more so when fresh. The sexes are very similar, but I believe (and I could be wrong here) that the female has a stronger red line down each side of the abdomen.

ref sex

observations

alt. m
24191 M a male, not completely fresh as 9733. 30
31745 M a male, slightly worn but the red uph post-discal markings are nice and bright. 140
31883 M a male, very slightly worn, even though the red and blue post-discal marks are quite pale. 140
40225 M a slightly pale yellow male. 140
9733 F

a beautiful fresh specimen, probably a female, based on body width and colouring. The yellow and black contrast is striking and the red and blue scales on the uph submarginal area are intact and immaculate.

400
9757 F

this is the same individual as 9733, in a typical moth-like pose with the forewings folded down. Very likely a female based on body shape and the dorsal red line.

400
10361 F?

an underside, showing the same degree of patterning, possibly a female as there is a reddish line on the abdomen, in the same dorsal region as others on this page.

230
9960 F

another underside, with the forewing raised quite visible. Very likely a female based on the abdominal red line.

230
24126 F a female, on the strength of body shape, but the red line does not appear very distinct here. 185
40268 LARVA a full-grown larva. 140
32111 HOSTPLANT the larval hostplant Aristolochia rotunda. It is a low-growing plant reaching about 25cm height at the most. It is quite common in Var although inconspicuous and easily overlooked. Polyxena never wanders far from the hostplant and it is often the case that when polyxena is seen, rotunda can usually be found nearby. See also the rumina page.  

 

24191_male_Var_18Apr11

 

31745_male_Var_21Apr13

 

31883_male_Var_25Apr13

 

40225_male_Var_22Apr16

 

9733_female_Var_13Apr08

 

9757_female_Var_13Apr08

 

10361_female?_Var_7May08

 

9960_female_Var_23Apr08

 

24126_female_Var_16Apr11

 

40268_larva_Var_23Apr16

 

32111_hostplant_Var_9May13