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:

Antennae

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

Wings

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.

Body

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

Color

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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How to #followapollo IRL (or not)

Have you ever seen red and white dots as hiking markers? The red-and-white dot has been a companion of mountaineers in Slovenia for almost 100 years. If you look closely at them, you can recognize the legendary dot of Apollo’s wings.

The inventor of this marking system was Alojz Knafelc. The Slovene cartographer and mountaineer got inspired by the Apollo butterfly and created the Slovene trail blaze. Originally, the paths in the mountains were marked only with stone mounds, which the guides placed in key places.

The first trail marked with a red and white dot in Slovenia was led in 1879 from Bohinj via Komarča to Triglav. The Knafelc blaze, introduced in 1922, is a white dot inside a red ring. The outer diameter should be between 8 to 10 cm (3.1 to 3.9 in), with the inner radius about half of the outer radius. If a mountaineer finds himself at a crossroad, on a rock, or does not know which direction is the right one, Knafl’c marking quickly saves him from torment.

#followapollo in East Tyrol

Each year in spring tourists come to the Defereggental valley to go on the panoramic path “Im Reich des Apollo” (“In the kingdom of Apollo”). The highest point here is 1,400 m a.s.l. the hamlet of Rajah. The road goes all the way along towards the forest on the sunny side of the Defereggen Valley, which is the perfect place to see some Apollo butterflies in their natural habitat.

The High Tauern National Park is home to hundreds of species of insects. The sunny meadows above the valley which alternate with wetter areas attract a range of various butterflies. The Apollo is found in parts of Southern Germany and the Alps, Central Europe, and the Balkans, as well as the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. Its range extends southwards to Turkey and eastwards to Central Asia.

When the Apollo is just in the name

Parnassius apollo is a popular and highly protected species in Europe. Still, some people get confused about his name. In western culture, the Apollo space mission is really popular. You can find songs and posters with famous Neil Armstrong’s quote “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Apollo Park which lies in the heart of Milson, Michigan State, is named exactly after the Apollo spaceship mission. It has a large playground with an enormous rocket, which children can climb in and on and be spun. Ironically, this park is also well-known as Butterfly Park. During a visit, visitors be able to spot Monarchs, Red and Yellow Admirals, NZ Coppers and Little Blies. No Apollo though…

Get to know more fun facts on the Apollo universe and read an article about the full history of Parnassius apollo’s name.

#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
Dissemination
Tomáš Ernest Vondřejc
Reintroduction
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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Learn about breeding and reintroduction in Poland

Breeding and reintroduction of Parnassius apollo have quite a history in Poland. Learn about it in this posting and join our conference (19.09.2022) for free online to learn about the breeding in the LIFE Apollo2020 project. Our breeding experts from Poland, Czechia, and Austria will discuss the legal regulations, challenges, and benefits of breeding in a session from 10:15 – 10:45 CET on 19. September 2022. You will also be able to ask questions and discuss with them!

The Apollo butterfly became extinct in the project areas at the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century attempts were made by German entomologists to reintroduce it in the Sudetes The introduced individuals were kept in natural conditions in the years 1917–1926. Another attempt to reintroduce the Apollo butterfly, carried out in the Kruczy Kamień Reserve (Poland), took place in the years 1994-1995 and was made by  Jerzy Budzik.  

The species stayed in this location for the next 11 seasons. In 2019, Karkonosze National Park (KPN) introduced 150 pairs of Apollo butterflies in the Kruczy Kamień Reserve and 300 caterpillars on Chojnik Mountain and the meadows surrounding it. Monitoring in 2020 in both locations showed the presence of a new generation of the Apollo butterfly, which has undergone all development stages in natural conditions. Monitoring has shown that the species is able to use convenient habitats but still requires assistance by the supply of captive-bred specimens. 

The LIFE Apollo2020 project has started

In 2020 the “wild” population was supplemented with specimens from breeding – 490 individuals were released into the natural habitats: 250 in Kruczy Kamień Reserve and 240 on the Chojnik Mountain. In 2021 Karkonosze National Park introduced 1916 caterpillars and 2529 butterflies and in 2022 released 19 562 caterpillars in 12 locations. 

The Breeding farm in Karkonosze National Park

The Parnassius apollo breeding farm in Karkonosze National Park has been operating since 2016 and is located in the Karkonosze Gene Bank in Jagniątków. The farm has specialized infrastructure with breeding tents for caterpillars and imago including equipment, an automated greenhouse, a controlled irrigation system, infrastructure for breeding host plants for caterpillars, and a garden with a collection of nectarous plants. The staff at the Karkonosze Gene Bank have experience in breeding Parnassius apollo, which made it possible to start the reintroduction of the Apollo butterfly to natural sites in 2019 – 2022. KPN’s employees developed a system and methodology for breeding Apollo, which will be used and made available for the creation of new farms within the project.

What do you need to breed butterflies?

Equipment consists mainly of terrariums and foldable tents where caterpillars and imagines are held until their release. Terrariums are closed with a permeable net, which limits the access of predators and parasitoids and are placed in a  breeding tent, which protects them from snow and heavy rainfall. When imago appear they are placed in tents with nectariferous plants to mate. Fertilized females are placed in cotton sleeves in which they lay eggs. Eggs are put into glass containers for winter. Breeding tents are used both at the stage of caterpillar development and imago reproduction.

Also, you can join online and attend sessions from our project leaders in Poland. They will share the best key practices and learning points from the Apollo reintroduction process.

Learn more about breeding online at our conference

During our International conference on butterfly conservation, “Science, ecology and innovation for Parnassius apollo conservation in Central Europe”, the breeding experts of the LIFE Apollo2020 project from Austria, Poland, and Czechia will present and discuss the breeding process, legal regulations and challenges of breeding. Join this panel on Monday, 19. September 20200 from 10:15 – 10:45 CET and ask your questions and share your experiences on breeding with our experts! The participation is free of charge.

Our breeding experts look forward to a fruitful exchange with you!

#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

Panelists

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. 

iNaturalist
https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/about

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:

Weißbach/Lofer

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.

Fusch/Großglocknerstraße

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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Team Poland – Three organisations combine experience

Project leader- Karkonoski National Park (KPN), Klub Przyrodników (KP/Naturalists’ Club) and W. Szafer Institute of Botany at the Polish Academy of Science (IBPAN) constitute the Polish segment of the project team.

An experienced project leader: Karkonoski Park Narodowy

Karkonoski Park Narodowy is a public institution – one among 23 National Parks existing in Poland. KPN protects the so-called Karkonosze and their fauna and flora. Karkonosze Mountains are the part of Sudety Mountains in which Parnassius apollo became extinct in the XIX century. In 2007 KPN undertook first reintroduction attempts of the species in the area – by placing the eggs in an adequate environment. Next year the Park started to breed Parnassius apollo and release caterpillars and adult individuals. Now, thanks to the LIFE Apollo2020 project, KPN will be able to increase efforts on reintroduction, so as on the monitoring of the species and its feeding plants. 

Knowledge transfer in breeding and reintroduction experience

As part of the LIFE Apollo2020 project, Karkonoski National Park shares knowledge about the breeding of the Apollo butterfly with other partner organisations. Their knowledge serves as a foundation for establishing the methodology of monitoring Apollo in the project and its habitat. KPN plays also a very important role in knowledge transfer and in supporting the creation of new breeding stations. This year 2022,  eggs of Apollo travelled from KPN to the Czech Republic and to the new breeding station which is being established in Uniemyśl by Klub Przyrodników. Having multiple breeding stations and release points is a very important step toward creating metapopulations (groups of small populations) of Apollo. 

Co-lead: Klub Przyrodników

To be the first organisation in Poland that received funding from the LIFE Programme means years of experience and knowledge, which are crucial for a smooth project implementation.

Klub Przyrodników
Co-lead

Klub Przyrodników is a well-established association existing since 1989. It has an NGO status and unites environmentalists from the whole country. The Club implements a range of different conservation projects. It has two field stations – one in Owczary on the Polish-German border and the other one – in the South of the country, in Uniemyśl. A station in Uniemyśl will be developed during the project to facilitate the reintroduction of Parnassius apollo.  This is where a new breeding station for Apollo is located, and where Gardens for Apollo are being created, full of feeding plants for caterpillars and adult butterflies. Klub Przyrodników has a large range of responsibilities in the LIFE Apollo2020 project. KP together with KPN are responsible for the project management and coordinating the whole consortium. During the project, KP will open a new breeding station (already ongoing on the small scale), Garden for Apollo and Education Centre.

Research on the genetics of Parnassius apollo for the successful reintroduction

IBPAN –  W. Szafer Institute of Botany at the Polish Academy of Science is a third member of the Polish team. It is a well-recognised academic institution in Poland. In the project, they are participating through the work of dr Tomasz Suchan – a scientific researcher – focusing on the genetics of Parnassius apollo. Tomasz Suchan will sequence part of Apollo’s genome and will also research the population of the species in Europe – all that with the aim to inform successful reintroduction of the butterfly. Tomasz is also strongly supporting the Citizen Science component of the project.

Get to know the members of the Polish team

Magdalena Makowska
Project Manager
Julia Hava
Project management assistant
Kamila Grzesiak
Conservation actions
Anna Bator-Kocoł
Conservation actions
Grzegorz Hajnowski
Reintroduction
Roman Rąpała
Reintroduction
Dariusz Kuś
Project management
Tomasz Suchan
Genetics
Anna Mitek
Krzysztof Kalemba
Botanist

#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.

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