In June, the LIFE Apollo2020 project team gathered for a partner meeting, this time in Austria. The main goal of this event was visiting the habitats of the Apollo butterfly. In Austria, there are still some habitat sites where Parnassius apollo butterflies fly and its populations exist.
Two entire days were spent for visiting the intact habitats, during which a few imagines were spotted. A lepidopterist (an expert specializes in studying butterflies) was present to guide the team around the sites. This meeting turned out to be very important since breeders from various countries came together to share their expertise.
Austria’s Apollo habitats provided an excellent example for the entire project team. For the success of the LIFE Apollo2020 project, it was very important to visit the sites bacause this allows a better and crucial understanding of functionality of existing habitats in other countries. Therefore, by observing where the Parnassius apollo likes to live, the selection of reintroduction sites will be much easier.
The sites visited around Austria differ greatly and exhibit unique characteristics. Some are close to settlements, others close to train tracks and yet others are located on high mountains and steep rocks. The differences between the habitats are striking and incredibly interesting because they show that the Apollo is very well adaptable to many different environments as long as there is sun, stonecrops (Sedum sp.) for the caterpillars and nectarous plants for imagines. The project team was pleased to conduct this fruitful and interesting meeting while monitoring methods were discussed and exchanged between breeders and scientists. Acquired experience and knowledge will be used to improve the project.
Here are some photos of the various habitats and the magnificent Parnassius apollo itself.
In recent months, a project breeding station has been built on the land of an organic farmer near the village of Blatnička in the foothills of the White Carpathians in the Czech Republic. The station was built by the project partner Bílé Karpaty Education and information centre and although some internal elements are still unfinished, it will serve as a home for the first few fertilised Apollo butterfly stations in the coming days.
Another breeding farm was constructed in Uniemyśl, in the Stone Mountains in Poland by the project partner KP. The construction was finalised at the end of May, after the team had been using a portable breeding tent.
Breeding Farm for Plant Cultivation
So far, the interior of the breeding station has been used for the cultivation of the main food plant, which is the great stonecrop, as well as for the caterpillars of the Apollo butterfly. In the future it will possibly also be used for the cultivation of other food plants. Recently, we have also planted large stonecrop plants next to the breeding station itself, and we have sown two species of cornflowers adjacent to it, which will serve as nectarous plants for the adult butterflies. All plants (both food and nectarous plants) come from our own collections from the White Carpathians. In fact, some of the plants will be used to seed the case for planting at the project sites, and we make every effort to plant only genetically native plants in our project area.
Breeding Farm in Poland
Breeding started in 2022 in a temporary portable tent. From the breeding farm in Karkonoski National Park we received 209 eggs, from which we eventually obtained 40 butterflies. We obtained 2866 eggs from our own breeding, from which we have about 1600 caterpillars in the current season. The permanent breeding tent was completed an the end of May. The structure of the building is wooden and refers to the body of the historic Field Station building. We moved the caterpillars to newly finished home. Soon the first pupae will appear, and later part of the tent will turn into an enclosure for butterflies.
In 2022, plant seedlings (mostly Cirsium genus) were obtained in the field. We have started establishing a base of nectariferous plants (host plants for imago) in the garden of the field station in Uniemyśl, as well as farming of Sedum maximum (host plant for caterpillars) in the Forestry Nursery of the Kamienna Góra Forest District in Krzeszów and in the garden of the Field Station in Uniemyśl. The resulting base will feed food plants to our breeding farm. The floor of the breeding tent is lined with humus. Inside and around the tent we will create a garden of nectar-producing plants and host plants for caterpillars.
Since there is no water source near the breeding station, we use rainwater that falls on the roof of the breeding station for watering. The water is collected in a large 1000 l container. For the project’s progress, the breeding farms are very important. They are milestones that we have already reached. Now, the project has at least one breeding station in every country.
KPN & KP: Monitoring studies in 2022 covered 33 observation sites selected on three areas:
in the vicinity of Jelenia Góra, for the recognition of habitats in the vicinity of the place of reintroduction of Apollo’s butterfly on Chojnik sub-site,
in the vicinity of Uniemyśl Complex sub-site, for the identification of habitats in the vicinity of the Field Station of the Klub Przyrodników,
the Kaczawskie Mountains, due to the presence of closed quarries and other habitats that may be potential reintroduction sites for Apollo butterflies.
ČSOP: Monitoring of host plant Hylotelephium maximum in the CZ side of the Sudetes took place during the past year as well as monitoring of habitats in our subsite. In the near future, we need to focus on these activities which are also linked to the Citizen science campaign.
VIS: We have conducted habitat monitoring on a portion of the project sites to determine how many nectariferous and host plants are present on our project sites and to know how many host/nectariferous plants need to be seeded. While moving in the field during monitoring, we also collected seeds at appropriate times for later sowing.
EWS: Training of dogs has been completed and the first dog is certified. The first monitoring of caterpillars is planned in April 2023 in Milders, Karteis, Lofer and Virgen.
KPN: We carried out sheep grazing on an area of 9,8 ha of meadows around Chonik Mt. to improve the condition of habitats. We organized an International Shepherd Dog Competition in Karkonosze. This event is a tourist attraction and a great opportunity to promote grazing as a method of nature protection, maintenance of traditional professions (i.e. shepherd) and protection of species, including butterflies closely related to habitats like xerothermic grasslands and Molinia meadows that are dependent on this traditional form of management. We have new permissions to include to our actions new meadows near Chojnik Mt. (5ha) and we plan shrubs removal from meadows in autumn 2023.
KP: We haven’t started any active conservation actions yet. They are planned for 2023. We have obtained the necessary consents to carry out the activities from the plot owners and we are in the procedure aimed at leasing key habitats for the species within the Uniemyśl sub-site. However, we have begun the process of making arrangements for conducting active conservation activities in the Kruczy Kamień reserve.
ČSOP: Extensive debushing and deforestation on nearly 1 ha of the subsite has been done and has thus contributed to the restoration of the valuable forest-free habitat necessary for the successful reintroduction of Apollo. Monitoring of habitats has been done in the subsite as well as identification of the first stepping stones nearby. Support of the host plant population by seeding and sowing also took place; however, it is necessary to continue these activities, especially immediately after the opening of the vegetation stand.
VIS: Three sites were mowed by hand (or with the help of small machinery) and two of them were grazed by sheep. Three of the subsites were seeded with our main food plant Hylotelephium maximum at the end of 2022 and in January and February of 2023.
EWS: The first restoration was undertaken in Lofer and Fieberbrunn in 2022 in June and September. The next habitat restoration is planned after the flight period starting in September 2023 in Milders, Hinterbichl, Virgen and Leisach. Sedum and feeding plants will be planted in May/June 2023 depending on weather in Murtal, Fieberbrunn, Lofer, and the new area Fließ, Tyrol.
Our breeding farms and how they changed
KPN: The Karkonosze National Park obtained 60,518 eggs of Apollo for wintering 2021/2022 from our own breeding farm. After transferring part of the material for breeding at the Field Station of the Klub Przyrodników in Uniemyśl (209 eggs) and the breeding farm in Barchov (366 eggs), 59,943 eggs were allocated for breeding. 36,921 caterpillars hatched from them, which is 61.5% of the initial breeding material in 2022. The Karkonosze National Park has allocated 21,562 caterpillars for reintroduction, thus leaving 15,359 individuals for further breeding. In the KPN breeding farm, 1095 imago (7%) were obtained from 15,359 caterpillars, including 810 males and 285 females. We designated 51 males for reintroduction.
KP: We started breeding in a temporary portable tent. From the breeding farm in KPN we received 209 eggs, from which we eventually obtained 40 butterflies. We obtained 2866 eggs from our own breeding, which are intended for further breeding in 2023. The blueprint of the target breeding tent was made and a contractor was selected and began work on its construction. We obtained plant seedlings in the field. We have started establishing a base of nectariferous plants (host plants for imago) in the garden of the field station in Uniemyśl, as well as farming of Sedum maximum (host plant for caterpillars) in the Forestry Nursery of the Kamienna Góra Forest District in Krzeszów.
ČSOP: The breeding facility and process was established within an already existing breeding farm of the most endangered Czech butterfly species in a private facility led by Miloš Andres.
It differs from the breeding farm in KPN primarily by its size, the Czech one has a much smaller capacity – last year about 366 eggs from PL were brought in at the beginning of April and about 200 imagos have hatched.
In this breeding farm, up to thousands of individuals of different developmental stages of the Czech species of butterflies are bred; Apollo is bred in hundreds. This is the 1st ever legal breeding of Apollo in the Czech Republic. The infrastructure of the breeding facility resembles a classic 3m x 2,8m foil greenhouse, but it is covered with a scaffolding net – it protects against some external influences while remaining airy, the rainfall shade is provided by a plastic foil. The big difference is also that in the Czech breeding facility the mating is controlled – the breeder selects individuals individually for the breeding “in hand”.
VIS: The breeding station of our organization is in the construction phase. The greenhouse itself is already standing, but minor landscaping is still needed in its immediate surroundings. Also, the production of the netted part of the greenhouse and its equipment have to be arranged, which are tasks for the next month. However, we have already sown Hylotelephium maximum in the greenhouse and will shortly be sowing nectariferous plants for adult butterflies in the vicinity of the greenhouse (so far we have seeds of Centaurea jaccea agg. and Centaurea scabiosa).EWS: Specialist has been actively breeding 200 caterpillars. He is breeding the subspecies Glocknerius, Bartholomeus, Noricanus, Loferensis and Karteisjuvavus for the release. The improvements of the breeding farm will begin after the current breeding.
Other Infrastructure works
KPN: We have purchased the following equipment necessary for conservation activities:
a logistic support for KPN in the form of a 4×4 off-road vehicle,
drone for the preparation of documentation of natural habitats,
watering system garden in Centrum Informacyjne Karpacz,
wood milling machine to clearing/shrubs removal from meadows.
KP: We have obtained design documentation for the Apollo Ecocenter heating system in Uniemyśl, as well as a design for landscaping around the area station. We have also obtained a design for a breeding tent and its construction has begun. Some of the landscaping work has also begun.
VIS: Before the construction of our breeding station, we have secured the fencing of the land, which will be used not only for the breeding of Apollo butterflies but also for the cultivation of host plants and other purposes.
Since the breeding farm is located behind the village, we provided increased security not only by fencing but also by using two photo traps on poles with sending data to a mobile phone and email.
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 areasat 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 Parnassiusapollo 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 Parnassiusapollo, 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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