Parnassius apollo is a butterfly of the temperate climate zone, a typical mountain species that prefers the meadows and pastures of the mountains of continental Europe. Usually it occurs at relatively high altitudes (from 400 to 2300 m above sea level). The species requires specific weather conditions (cold winters and sunny summers) and might be negatively influenced by high humidity and low temperatures.
The Apollo routinely move across relatively large distances and move frequently between the two types of habitat’s patches. It is a good flyer and able to move over distances of several kilometres during its lifespan. Males are territorial and actively patrol space and habitats, chasing out rival males. This way, they force other males to seek out other, free territories.
The Apollo’s lifecycle
The lifecycle of the Apollo butterfly consists of an egg-, five different caterpillar-, a pupa (larva)- and an imago-stage. The Apollo butterfly requires two main types of habitat to develop: the first providing an adequate feeding base for caterpillars, and the second providing an adequate amount and variation in flowering times of nectariferous plants used by adult butterflies.
A red dotted beauty
The butterfly shows great variations in appearance, with an evident colour polymorphism. These large and conspicuous white butterflies are decorated with five black eyespots on the forewing and two red or sometimes orange eyespots on the hindwing. The eyespots can vary in size and form depending on the location of the Apollo butterfly, and the red colour can fade in the sun, causing the eyespots of older individuals to look more orange. White wings have slightly transparent edges and some individuals are darker. The caterpillars of this species are velvety black with orange-red spots along the sides.
Why protect it?
Parnassius apollo acts as an umbrella species – for protection of biodiversity on the ecosystem level and habitat mosaics. By protecting the species itself, other species and habitats associated with it, are also protected. Many butterfly species thus benefit from habitat conservation measures for the Apollo. Most of them are listed in Red Books of Animals and other rare and endangered species lists. By protecting the Apollo and providing it with habitats with an appropriate state of protection, other EU habitats are also protected, i.e. luminous, warm, steppe and xerothermic meadows, rocky grasslands.