Parnassius apollo - Apollo - Apolo

Parnassius apollo – Apollo – Apolo

Parnassius apollo – Apollo – Apolo is a mountain species of butterfly that typically inhabits hills and flowery alpine meadows in continental European mountains, including Spain. This species requires specific climatic conditions, such as cold winters and sunny summers. It also prefers wide open spaces with less than 5% shrub cover and ample meadow surfaces of at least 50%. The presence of host plants for caterpillars is also crucial for its survival.

The Apollo butterfly displays a significant amount of individual variation in appearance, with evident color polymorphism. These large and beautiful white butterflies are adorned with five prominent black eyespots on the forewing and two bright red or orange eyespots on the hindwing.

Parnassius apollo - Apollo - Apolo
Parnassius apollo – Apollo – Apolo

The size and form of these striking red eyespots may vary depending on the location and subspecies of the Apollo butterfly, and the bright red color often fades in the sun, causing the eyespots of older individuals to appear more orange.

The wings are shiny, with slightly transparent edges. Some individuals may be darker, a phenomenon known as sphragismelanistic, which is common in many butterflies.

Video of Parnassius apollo

This species has a single brood, and adult Apollo butterflies are usually observed in flight from May to September, feeding on nectar from various wildflowers. During mating, males deposit a gelatinous secretion called sphragis on the female’s abdomen, which prevents the female from mating again. The females lay eggs that over-winter and hatch in the following spring.

The Apollo caterpillar is velvety blue-black with small orange spots and feeds on stonecrop (Sedum species, mainly Sedum telephium, Sedum album, Sedum rupestre, and Sedum ropsea), Hylotelephium caucasicum, and houseleek (Sempervivum species). When fully grown, the caterpillar pupates on the ground, forming a loose cocoon from which the adult butterfly emerges after undergoing metamorphosis.

Parnassius apollo - Apollo - Apolo
The Apollo caterpillar is velvety blue-black with small orange spots
The following Iberian subspecies have been described

(This list is from 2006 and as such some of these species may have become extinct)

  • Aizpuruae (mountains of San Cristóbal, Alava).
  • Antijesuita (Pyrenees of Girona and surroundings)
  • Aragonicus (Sierra de la Peña, Huesca).
  • Ardanazi (Picos de Europa, Santander).
  • Asturiensis (Asturias, León).
  • Escalerae (Sierra de Guadarrama, north and south slopes).
  • Filabricus (Sierra de Filabres, Almería)
  • Gadorensis (Sierra de Gador, Almería).
  • Germainae (Sierra de Gúdar, Teruel).
  • Hispanicus (Sierra de Albarracín and Serranía de Cuenca).
  • Lessei (Sierra de Andía, Navarra).
  • Laufferi (El Moncayo, Zaragoza, Soria).
  • Manleyi (Sierra Mencilla-Demanda, Picos de Urbión, Burgos, Soria, Logroño).
  • Mariae (Sierra María, Almería).
  • Marteni (central and northeastern Burgos).
  • Maurilianus (northern Palencia).
  • Nevadensis (Sierra Nevada, Granada).
  • Nichollae (Sierra de Javalambre, Teruel).
  • Odriozolae (Aitzgorri, Urbia, Guipúzcoa).
  • Pozazalensis (Puerto de Pozazal, Santander).
  • Wyatti (northwest slope of Guadarrama, Avila).
Parnassius apollo nevadensis
Parnassius apollo nevadensis
Further reading

The IUCN lists the Parnassius apollo as “Near Threatened” in Europe:

Article at wikipedia:
Some fantastic images at the Lepiforum website:

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