Apollo – A traffic stopper

The clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne), cousin of Parnassius apollo, is also threatened by habitat loss in Europe.

Once widespread across the state of Baden-Württemberg in Southern Germany, it is now only found in two valleys in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of the Swabian Jura. In one of these remaining strongholds, the Mühltal valley near Münsingen and Schelklingen, authorities closed district 7410 road between the two towns for a week of major habitat management.

Supporting measures

The clouded Apollo exclusively lays its eggs on Corydalis plants, on which the hatched caterpillars feed. The Biosphere reserve has undertaken research and habitat management measures for Parnassius mnemosyne for 8 years. After research on potential habitat for the butterfly in the Mühltal, experts found that Corydalis was very common around the 7410.By cutting back the plants, they are hoping to create ideal conditions for the clouded Apollo along the busy stretch of road. Similar activities in nearby Springen have yielded great results, with just two butterflies growing to a population of 153 in a few years.

These activities will not only support clouded Apollo conservation. Species such as the southern white admiral and the pearl-bordered fritillary will also benefit from these measures. At the slight inconvenience of prolonging car travel for a week, several butterfly species will have an increased chance of survival in the area. If more local or national authorities made decisions that put species conservation first, we would save many more butterfly species.

Picture: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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Inconspicuous buzzers

They are called Peppered moth (Biston betularia), Silver Y (Autographa gamma), or Crepuscular burnet (Zygaena carniolica). They are usually neither as colorful nor as well-known as their famous relatives, the Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), the Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) or the Peacock butterfly (Aglais io,). Nevertheless, moths are enormously important to our ecosystem. We explain why they are endangered and how they can be distinguished from butterflies.

They buzz around us at night and make up a large proportion of the world’s lepidopterans species, these are butterflies and moths. Around 3,000 lepidopteran species live in Germany. However, only about 100 of these species are butterflies. Worldwide, there are 180,000 lepidopterans species and 25,000 butterflies; in Austria, there are about 3,900 moth species and 200 butterflies.

It’s all about the looks

It is very widely believed that butterflies and moths differ in that they are active either during the day or at night. In German they are even called “Tagfalter” (=”day butterfly”) and Nachtfalter (=night butterfly). However, this is not quite true. In fact, some moths are also partially active during the day and do not only fly around in the dark. In the same way, there are butterflies that are active by day and night. Nevertheless, they can be easily distinguished by some other criteria – their appearance:


The antennae of butterflies end in a club, while those of moths are pointed, combed, or feathered.


In butterflies, the wings are usually closed when at rest. In moths, on the other hand, the wings are usually spread in the resting position.


The head of butterflies tends to be small and the body tends to be narrow. The bodies of moths are thick and short.


Moths tend to be brownish, white or black. Some of them, for example the birch moth, have a camouflage pattern. Thus, they cannot be seen on tree bark. Most butterflies are rather bright and even colorful. Moths can also be colorful, just as day butterflies are brown. Accordingly, color is not a good distinguishing characteristic.

Endangered beneficial insects

They are on the move at night, so it is not really noticeable: many moths also pollinate flowers – only at night. They are therefore no less useful than their day-flying colleagues and, unfortunately, just as endangered. Many species are in sharp decline or have disappeared completely. 800 moth species are on Austria’s Red List, which is about 20 percent of the species that occur. The reason for this is, for example, intensive forestry and agriculture with monocultures, fertilizers and pesticides. The habitat of the butterflies is also increasingly being taken away by sealing the soil and building construction. Ornamental gardens without food plants make it difficult to find food, and light pollution is also a major problem. Fewer moths also means fewer bats and birds: many songbird species and bats depend on moths and their caterpillars as a food source for their young.

Love songs and screeching sounds

Moths produce sounds in the ultrasonic range, which some species use to warn bats that they would taste bad if eaten. Bees or wasps protect themselves from their predators by their coloration, some moths screech. However, these sounds are not audible to humans. Some species even sing love songs when looking for a mate.

A gem for humans and moths

Protecting butterflies is not that difficult. An unmowed garden with native plants such as fruit trees, willows, knapweeds or mallows and a small vegetable patch with, for example, raspberries or carrots, unsprayed of course. So not only butterflies but also people have something to snack on and the latter can enjoy the splendid appearance of the pretty flutterers.

And the Apollo?

Butterfly or moth?

Parnassius apollo is a stone-loving sun worshipper. Its beautiful coloring, small head and rather petite body are clear signs – it is a butterfly.

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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Ahoj z České republiky – Introducing team Czechia

The Czech part of the project is represented by two organisations, the Czech Union for Nature Conservation Hradec Králové and Education and Information Center of Bílé Karpaty Mountains.

Practical nature conservation

The Czech Union for Nature Conservation Hradec Králové is a member of the conservation group JARO. This group protects nature in modern and yet traditional ways and they are currently one of the most active citizens‘ associations for practical nature conservation. Every year, they provide treatment for more than 900 injured wild animals at the rescue station, and over half of them are returned to the wild. However, in order to give these animals a place to be released back, nature needs to be properly cared for. The group is an expert in superbiodiversity management.

One example of their expertise is that they mow the grass depending on the time of its flowering, suppress them and help to create space for forbs. They are also engaged in clearing out woody species and forest openings. They graze sheep, goats, donkeys, and water buffalos and also help with the return of wild horses from Exmoor and backcrossed aurochs to nature. They are restoring wetlands by using heavy equipment such as bulldozers, crawlers, walking excavators, and tractors. They have already built over 50 ponds and are also abolishing old drainage canals.  They operate in the Czech Republic, Austria, part of western Slovakia, and southern Poland to protect and support the most endangered fauna, flora, and habitats.

Education and Information

Education and Information Center Bílé Karpaty has strong experience in coordination of activities in the territory of the Bílé Karpaty Biosphere Reserve (including regular cooperation with stakeholders, best practice exchange, workshops), in the mediation of services aimed at the development of the region (South-East Moravia where the Biosphere Reserve is located).

The NGO supports the advice body for municipalities and local administrations when they asses projects. The center is in charge of gaining financial resources for the region’s development and coordinates activities for all nature conservation subjects in the region. The education center manages an information data bank supporting the development of the region and cooperates with international subjects. It also provides information for tourists and visitors of the Veselí n. Moravou Town. The center gives expert counseling in the environment and nature conservation area and ensures constant preparation of printed information, methodological materials, and education tools. Education activities for school children and teachers are often organized by the center to ensure an environmental education for the public. They also work as an advisory body for the preparation of projects regarding nature reserves in the region or their development. The Center is publishing periodical printed media and is a member of national and regional networks of environmental education centers.

Get to know the members of the Czech team

Marie Petrů
Project management
Roman Manak
Tomáš Ernest Vondřejc
Tereza Macečková
Project management
Gita Matlášková
Project management assistant
Věra Hlubučková
Financial management
Miloš Andres
Breeding and conservation actions
David Číp
Breeding and conservation actions

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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Missed the registration deadline – participate online!

Science, ecology and innovation for Parnassius apollo conservation in Central Europe – the project’s official Kick-off conference will take place in September, in Jelenia Góra, in the beautiful Giant Mountains, Karkonosze National Park in Poland. Registration for on-site participation is now closed but don’t worry, you can participate online and join the interesting talks and discussions from the comfort of your home.

Panels on Monday

The Species Parnassius apollo
Species status, threats and the biotop status
Genetics of the Apollo butterfly and experiences for other species
Breeding of Parnassius apollo
Habitat and species protection through active conservation
Legal framework & reintroduction effects in Europe
Habitat management & protection
New face of traditional techniques
Guidance and engagement in conservation
The key to meadow biodiversity
#Followapollo- LIFE Apollo 2020 Citizen Science on iNaturalist


Following are only some of the experts that will share their knowledge and experience with you:

More details will be added soon! Make sure to register and secure your spot for free.

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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Monitoring, education and feeding plants – There’s plenty to do at the Education and Information Center White Carpathians

During the last month, Education and Information Center White Carpathians (VIS) was very busy. Read what they have been up for:

Cultivation of feeding plants

Their outdoor activities started with the collection of the very important feeding plants for the Apollo caterpillars, like Hylotelephium maximum.

Monitoring of habitats

Monitoring of habitats is another activity that is important because it can be done only during the summer. VIS took phytocoenological images from three different project sides. Phytocoenology is the part of the ecology that deals with the interrelationships of plant species living in plant communities.  The population of Apollo butterflies is highly dependent on the number of healthy habitats with enough amount of food in the area. The challenge is that some plants are easily affected by climate change and the last waves of heat can kill them in the first stages of growth.

The team also mapped an area with some rope and pegs to be able recognize the areas of habitat plants and track their amount.

Education and dissemination

One of the vital ideas of the LIFE Apollo2020 project is to educate people about Parnassius apollo. The project team of VIS is preparing the educational program and they have already defined the target groups for this program. Another part of the dissemination strategy is to present the Apollo2020 project in different professional environments. During the last month, the project was presented at the 26th International Congress of Entomology in Helsinki and at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Helsinki. The project was enthusiastically welcomed by entomologists.

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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Be part of our scientific team and #followapollo

Despite the fact that citizen science is a relatively new term, people have been participating and contributing to scientific research for years. The widespread availability of the Internet and the rapid development of smartphones made it easier to share and contribute information. Armed with phones that have built-in GPS receivers people can provide geo-location information about species or situations in real-time. Thus new networks and communities of interested citizen scientists are created each day to learn more about the world and how we can contribute to understanding it.

What exactly is citizen science?

Citizen science is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. Through citizen science, people can participate in many stages of the scientific process, from the design of the research question to data collection and volunteer mapping, data interpretation and analysis, and publication and dissemination of results.

Different organisations and projects have been using different ways to integrate citizen scientists into their project and scientific question. Butterflies are the most well-known species among insects that citizen science has been used on for some time. LIFE Apollo2020 is focused on the conservation of Parnassius apollo butterfly and it requires some citizen science involvement.

Your contribution is important

The LIFE Apollo2020 project is focused on the conservation of the Apollo butterfly and you can help to make this project a success! Parnassius apollo is an umbrella species. This means, that by protecting the Apollo butterfly and its habitats, whole ecosystems for other species are also protected. So the more we know about the presence of the Apollo butterfly and its larvae’s feeding plants, the more we can do to protect it, its habitats and many other species.

Different organisations and projects have been using different ways to integrate citizen scientists into their projects and scientific questions. Butterflies are the most well-known species among insects that citizen science has been used on for some time – no worry though! Even if you have never been involved in any citizen science activity, you can take part – have fun and learn something!

Join the iNaturalist project now

To collect all of your observations we chose to use iNaturalist. It’s easy to use and provides great possibilities to collect and share your observations.

One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. 


All you have to do to join is register on iNaturalist, search for our project “LIFE Citizen Science for Parnassius apollo and join it and record your observations.

  1. Join iNaturalist
  2. Join our project ” LIFE Citizen Science for Parnassius apollo
  3. Record your observations of the Apollo butterfly or its larvaes feeding plants
  4. Contribute to the success of the project 🙂

What and where we are observing in iNaturalist

We aim to collect data about Parnassius apollo and its host plants in Czechia, Poland and Austria in the areas where it is reintroduced to nature within the LIFEApollo2020 project. Parnassius apollo is a typical mountain species, it usually occurs at relatively high altitudes (from 400 to 2300 m above sea level). So look out for it and its larvae’s feeding plants while hiking!

Both data about the incidence of adult individuals of the Apollo butterfly (imago) and about the locations of feeding plants for its larvae (the habitat is crucial for this stage of development) are collected!

Feeding plants for larvae:

The Citizen Science data collection process is being led in parallel with the observations done by entomologists (the Apollo butterfly) and by botanists (feeding plants). It is one of the multiple project actions and aims to engage the larger public in the monitoring measures for the conservation of Parnassius apollo.

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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“Iiiihs” and “aaaahs” : team Austria educates the smallest

The project partners strongly believe that social inclusion in nature conservation and strengthening of social responsibility are key factors for sustaining the reintroduced population. For this reason, a number of workshops have been held at schools in Austria in recent months. If we can’t get the smallest explorers among us excited about the Apollo butterfly and its protection, then who can we?

Austrian conservation action coordinator Magdalena Meikl reports, what she has experienced in the schools, conducting the workshops with butterfly expert Otto Feldner:


At the end of June, we visited the elementary school in Weißbach/Lofer. The school is a “Naturparkschule” and is located in the middle of the Weißbach nature park. Large butterfly stickers greeted us right at the school entrance. Accordingly, the 16 children of the 1st to 4th grade had already lot of knowledge about butterflies and insects in general. They could name many species, including very rare ones like Chazara briseis. The kids even wore butterfly pants and shorts. Many told us about the caterpillars they found on stinging nettles in the garden. Some children have even bred butterflies themselves, such as the little tortoiseshell or the peacock butterfly.

Otto showed the kids eggs and larvae in different stages from Parnassius apollo. The kids were of course very enthusiastic about that! We told them about the habitats that the Apollo butterfly needs, what is necessary to restore them, and about the project in general. Furthermore, they were asked to guess how many eggs an Apollo butterfly lays. Their guesses ranged from 1 to 20. They were amazed that the Red Apollo lays up to 100 eggs and that the caterpillars hibernate fully developed in their egg covers. In the end, they could touch some of the Apollo butterflies that Otto also brought with him which was the highlight of the whole workshop.

Next year we will meet again to create “Apollo gardens” together with the kids on the area of the school.

Maria Alm

On June 15th, we had a workshop about butterflies and the Red Apollo in the 2nd  grade of the elementary school in Maria Alm, Salzburg, Austria. Apollo-expert Otto Feldner was with us again. The children had already learned about butterflies in class and were able to tell us about many other native species in addition to P. apollo. Of course, they were very enthusiastic about the Apollo eggs, caterpillars and pupae that Otto had brought with him.

They learned about the specific habitats of P. apollo and what everyone can contribute to protect this beautiful and unique butterfly. In the end, we showed the kids the Apollo butterflies, which was of course the highlight of the whole workshop. The children also got butterfly seed bags as a little present and we hope that they will create many colorful flower meadows that will support butterfly biodiversity in Maria Alm.


On the 23rd of May we conducted a school workshop about P. apollo and butterflies in the primary school in Fusch/Großglocknerstraße, Austria. 21 kids from the 1st and 2nd grades learned a lot about the flying beauties from our butterfly expert Otto Feldner.

The children already knew a lot about butterflies in general and could even distinguish between butterflies and moths. Otto brought some Apollo caterpillars and butterflies for the children to see and touch. That was the highlight for the children, even if the green excretions of the caterpillars caused quite a few “Iiiiiii”. At the end, the kids could play with puzzles and memories on different butterfly species. Each child also received a little bag with wildflower seeds to create an Apollo and butterfly paradise in the garden or on the balcony.

We will see each other again next spring because we will create “Gardens for Apollo” together with the children near the school. In addition, we might do an Apollo-excursion somewhere in the valley of Fusch.

We are looking forward to visit the school and would also like to thank the class teachers for their great interest and enthusiasm!

Interested in workshops at your school?

Contact our coordinator Magdalena Meikl (magdalena.meikl@wilderness-society.org)

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

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Mowing for butterflies – how to mow your garden insect-friendly

The principle of a garden that is to be inhabited by different species is diversity. This means a variety of habitats that merge with one another freely. Meadow gradually turns into a wetland with hydrophilous plants and eventually into a pond. Meadow is partly open and partly shaded by an orchard, in places turning into a wild corner. Solitary trees and dead trunks are interspersed with rockeries with thermophilous plant species and aromatic herbs. Hedges or groups of shrubs provide shelter and food in the form of berries in autumn.

In effect, we can create a miniature landscape that will contain almost all latitude and longitude environments and thus attract the relevant animals.

Watch the video by the Czech project partner and read the article to learn more!

Trees and flowers

Wherever possible, let’s try to grow native species of trees, shrubs and flowers. Choose species and varieties that not only produce a rich and tasty harvest, but also provide shelter and food for animals.

In the case of fruit trees, for example, it is advisable to go for native regional varieties that are best adapted to local conditions, do not suffer from disease and offer a rich variety of fruit aromas and flavours.

We buy seeds and seedlings from local gardeners and ask them if they are local native species. Native plants are not usually found in the shops of multinational companies.

Another option is to collect seeds or seedlings from the surrounding countryside. This way we do not risk introducing something non-native into the garden that will then be sown in the surrounding countryside where it will cause mischief. But this has strict rules. We never take endangered or protected species and we never take from a protected area, park or reserve.

A little wilderness

We can grow creeping or climbing shrubs (for example, blackberries and ivy), but wild species can also find their place here. It is advisable to place such a corner in a less frequented part of the garden, where nobody minds and the animals have the necessary peace and quiet. Throw in a pile of cut wood and stones or leave an old dead or gradually dying tree, which will also greatly enhance the potential of your garden.

Leave areas of tall grass. A short mown lawn is almost dead and animals will avoid it from a distance. By mowing frequently, not only will you not help the animals, but you will encourage the soil in your garden to dry out quickly.

How to care for a flowering meadow

An English-style lawn may look very pretty to some, but to animals it is synonymous with an inhospitable desert. With a flowering meadow comes insects, and with insects come the animals that feed on them – such as all our songbirds, lizards, bats and many more. The meadow provides food, shelter and a place to breed.

Flowering herbs are particularly damaged by frequent short mowing. They then fail to seed and over time grasses and groundcover plants dominate.

If we want a garden full of flowers and butterflies, we need to suppress grasses and encourage flowers as much as possible.

When mowing, try occasionally substituting a lawn mower for a traditional scythe or sickle.

How to mosaic mowing

  1. The grasses mature gradually from May to September. To control them, they should be cut at the time of flowering.
  2. If selective mowing of grasses is not possible, the solution is to mow in stages. For example, divide the area into three sections, which will be mowed separately once or twice a year. Primarily select the areas where the least amount of grass is currently flowering. The insects will gradually move between the strips.
  3. Always purchase regional seeds for sowing or reseeding flowering meadows.

What to offer butterflies and bumblebees?

We should offer bumblebees and butterflies flowering herbs and woody plants for as long as possible during the year. Bumblebees, for example, wake up early in the spring, when pussy willow, coltsfoots and snowdrops are in bloom. In turn, flowering herbs in autumn can help still awake butterflies survive the delayed winter.

In addition, butterflies are also tied to their food plants, on which they lay their eggs and on which the caterpillars subsequently feed (e.g. thymus, nettle, lotus, fennel or even hawthorn). They will also fly to a dry shelter where they can survive the winter – this could be our attic or rotten wood.

Aromatic plants, especially plants from the deadnettle family (e.g. oregano, lemon balm, mint, sage, thymus), umbellifers (e.g. dill, coriander, chervil) and legume plants, are the best sources of nectar and pollen. Also basket flower, lavender, thistles, great is also holy rope and dwarf elderberry. Daisies, sunflowers and marigolds also serve well. In addition to sunflowers, bumblebees also like to visit various legumes (e.g. clover or peas). Many vegetables such as radish, dill, curcuma, black salsify or lettuce can also be left to flower and shed seed.

An important birthday and why you should #followapollo

30 years of bringing green ideas to LIFE is the motto of the birthday of the LIFE program, which also co-finances our LIFE Apollo2020 project. In these thirty years, the program has co-funded no less than 5.500 projects . Thirty successful years in which LIFE has helped over 1.800 wild animal and plant species, including of course our Parnassius apollo. The entire LIFE Apollo2020 team is very proud to be part of the LIFE family since last year.

So today LIFE turns 30 and we wish you all the best for your birthday! Here’s to at least 30 more years of success, giving us all hope and inspiration for the future.

To celebrate this great day, we invite you to support our project, just as LIFE does:

Become a part of the LIFE family and #followapollo

In the coming weeks, months and yes, even years, we will not only share with you information about Parnassius apollo, its habitats and its relevance to our ecosystem but also show you how you can get active yourself and do your part to protect this beautiful butterfly and many more insects.

#followapollo means being active

Follow apollo means not only passively following but also being active! You only need your smartphone or tablet, open eyes and an attentive look and you are part of it. If you spot an Apollo butterfly, take a picture and upload it on iNaturalist in our project LIFE Citizen Science for Parnassius apollo.

And the best thing is, you can do it while hiking: The Apollo butterfly is a typical mountain species that prefers the meadows and pastures of the mountains of continental Europe. It usually occurs at altitudes from 400 to 2300 m above sea level. So put on your hiking boots and off you go!

Do you want to know more about Parnassius apollo, how to recognize it, which plants it needs or how big it grows? Then stay with us and #followapollo

#followapollo on social media

Small actions – big impacts: visiting habitats in Austria

Together with private landowners and the Austria State Forestry (ÖBF), the Austrian team visited potential habitats in Lungau, a district of Salzburg.

Read more on team Austria: Introducing team Austria

The landowners were very interested in the project and the whole team, especially butterfly expert Otto Feldner was able to describe convincingly which measures were necessary to improve sites to habitats for butterflies. These are for example removal of bushes and small trees, replanting of foodplants and hostplants and controlled grazing for some weeks with sheep and goats to keep the habitats open and prevent them from overgrowing.

With only small actions these sites will be very promising habitats for the Apollo butterfly.

Parnassius apollo L. juvavus, ma, Karteis 2015-33336.JPG
Otto Feldner
Breeding and conservation actions Austria

Not only P. apollo will benefit

Suitable habitats in Muhrtal and Tweng were found for P.arnassius apollo and for other butterfly species like Euphydryas sp., Erebia sp. or Lycenidae. The team could already observe some caterpillars and butterflies of different species, so hopefully, populations will profit quickly from the planned habitat measures. In accordance with the landowners the first steps will start this summer. The whole project is very happy about those successful steps and looking forward to the first actions!

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