People discovered the sensitivity of a dog’s nose thousands of years ago, initially using it for hunting. Fast forward to present, and these animals have evolved into valuable members of our society, serving in police, customs, military, and rescue missions. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that is a million times more sensitive than ours. It is related to the numerous scent receptors in their noses and the highly developed nasal processing centers in their brains. Dogs not only use their noses to detect scents, but they can also differentiate between various odours with amazing accuracy.
Dogs in Conservation
Thanks to that, dogs have become indispensable in research and conservation projects over the last 30 years. These sniffer dogs have been trained for a variety of tasks ranging from tracking wolves, lynx, wildcats, or bats to identifying carcasses (dead bodies), litter, and even targeting small insects. The possibilities are almost limitless, as long as the target object emits a smell, dogs can track it down. While this type of use of dog is common in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the use of nature or species protection dogs remains relatively unknown in Europe.
However, there is one organization in Austria, called Naturschutzhunde (nature conservation dogs) that promotes this type of dog work. They are experts in training sniffer dogs, for different areas of application, having certified teams in wildlife management, combating illegal persecution of protected species, searching for carcasses, tracking wild animals, and supporting various scientific projects.
What: Our focus is on collecting data about Parnassius apollo with detection dogs playing a key role in mapping caterpillar population across selected sites. These dogs ensure precise and non-invasive data collection by identifying unique odors associated with Apollo caterpillars and their habitats.
Where: Field surveys span the Austrian Alps, targeting specific sites within this region to monitor population development. This diverse landscape ensures comprehensive data collection, covering a wide range of potential Apollo butterfly habitats. These are the places where Parnassius apollo lays its eggs, which over time turn into caterpillars.
How: Dogs undergo a special training, that teaches them to recognize the unique odors associated with Apollo caterpillars. At first, the dog sniffs the live caterpillars and gets a treat for it. Then, tea bags scented with the caterpillar odor are introduced as a game element. The dog learns to associate finding the tea bags with getting a reward. As the training progresses, the dog practices in different places to get better at identifying the caterpillar scent. This simple but effective method helps the dog find the Apollo butterfly caterpillar in the wild.
When: Fieldwork usually takes place from March/April to June, when the caterpillars hatch from the eggs and crawl around.
Why: Dogs with their great sense of smell easily overtake humans in finding and detecting targets. The caterpillar monitoring, facilitated by the human-dog team guides us in conservation efforts, allowing us to make informed decisions on preserving this endangered species in its natural habitat.
Parnassius apollo, commonly known as the Apollo butterfly, is a beautiful and iconic species of butterfly found in Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, this species is on a rapid decline due to several factors, including habitat loss, climate change, and over-collecting.
The Apollo butterfly has a very specific habitat requirement, which is high altitude meadows and rocky slopes with specific plant species for feeding and breeding. However, these habitats are under threat from human activities such as tourism, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development. As a result, the population of the Apollo butterfly is decreasing at an alarming rate.
Factors of the decline
Parnassius apollo belongs to the most attractive butterfly and very often appreciated not onlyby scientists but also visitors. Therefore, decline of this butterfly species is so sensitive and painful. Decline of Parnassius apollo, particularly in a central Europe is dated back already since the 19 centuries.
Observations of gradual decline, some environmentalist even use the word extinction, of this butterfly in Europe identified numerous cases, proved that decline is very much due to combined negative impact on Parnassius population.
There are several major factors contributing to the decline of the Parnassius apollo population. One of the main factors is habitat loss. The main reason for that are human activities such as tourism, infrastructure development, and agricultural expansion.
The Apollo butterfly has very specific habitat requirements, including high altitude meadows and rocky slopes with certain plant species for feeding and breeding. When these habitats are destroyed or degraded, the butterfly population declines.
Climate change is another major factor affecting the Apollo butterfly population. The butterfly’s life cycle is closely tied to the timing of the availability of host plants and pollinators, which can be disrupted by changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. As a result, the butterfly may not be able to complete its life cycle and reproduce successfully.
Over-collecting of the Apollo butterfly is also a contributing factor to its decline. Some people collect the butterfly for commercial purposes or for private collections, while others collect it for scientific research. This can have a significant impact on the population, especially if it is not done sustainably.
Finally, the Apollo butterfly is also affected by pesticide use and other pollutants in the environment. These substances can be toxic to the butterfly and its host plants, and can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Overall, a combination of habitat loss, climate change, over-collecting, and pollution are the major factors contributing to the decline of the Parnassius apollo population. It is important that effective conservation efforts are put in place to address these issues and protect this beautiful species.
Major groups of factors
Experts agreed on the three major groups of factors such as:
a) natural factors including long-term climatic changes, habitat succession, and short-term weather anomalies;
b) anthropogenic factors that include broad impact of industrialization and butterfly over-collecting;
c) intrapopulation factors that include genetic erosion and behavioural changes.
Habitat loss is undoubtedly the most destructive for Apollo’s long-term survival. There are several interesting researches and monitorings which provide very important information concerning causes of extinction of numerous butterflies in their biotopes in Europe.
To help protect the Apollo butterfly, several conservation efforts have been implemented (one of them is our LIFE Apollo2020 project). These include habitat restoration, captive breeding, and protection of important sites. However, these efforts must be implemented on a larger scale and in a coordinated manner involving multiple stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, researchers, local communities, and individuals.
In conclusion, urgent action is needed to prevent the extinction of the Apollo butterfly. Conservation efforts must be comprehensive and well-coordinated to ensure the long-term survival of this beautiful and important specie
Very useful on this aspect is report developed by the expert of IUCN already two decades ago. These data provided important baseline for any kind of follow up researches and management measures to support survival rate of this rare butterfly. This work provides various protective measures that were, or should be undertaken to stop further Parnassius apollo decline.
Climate change is a significant threat to the survival of Parnassius apollo. The altered environmental conditions and increased frequency of extreme weather events can negatively impact their habitats, food sources, and overall health and survival.
The XII European Congress of Entomology 2023 (ECE 2023) is set to take place in Heraklion, Crete, from the 16th to the 20th of October. This international event is a significant gathering for entomologists and enthusiasts, offering a space for discussing critical entomological research and conservation efforts.
You might wonder what entomology is? It is the scientific study of insects, a field of biology that explores a fascinating and diverse world of these little creatures. Insects, representing a vast majority of known species on Earth, play a crucial role in ecosystems, agriculture, and human life. From pollinating crops to recycling organic matter, insects have a big impact on the world we inhabit.
Among the participants of the Congress is our team member Tomáš Ernest Vondřejc, a dedicated zoologist from the Education and Information Centre White Carpathians, representing the LIFE Apollo2020 project. He is going to hold a scientific poster presentation on “Conservation of Parnassius apollo in Poland, Czech Republic and Austria (Project LIFE APOLLO2020)” under the theme of “Biodiversity and Conservation“.
Date: Thursday, 19th October 2023 (Poster Session IV) Location: Cultural Conference Center of Heraklion, Crete, Greece (Poster Area is on Level 1) You will find the Detailed program of the congress here.
Tomáš Ernest Vondřejc is part of the LIFE Apollo2020 project team, and his work is important in ensuring the successful preservation of Parnassius apollo butterflies and their habitats. His responsibilities range from conducting in-depth research to organizing field trips and implementing practical conservation strategies.
The LIFE Apollo2020 project is looking forward to be represented at the ECE 2023, where it will have the opportunity to network with other enthusiastic entomology professionals and exchange knowledge with them.
For more information, please visit the official website of ECE 2023.
When it comes to protecting our planet’s valuable biodiversity, it sometimes takes a hero to defend the masses. The Parnassius apollo is a champion in the fascinating world of butterflies. The Apollo butterfly, often referred to as a “umbrella species,” plays a critical role in protecting not only its own species but an entire environment rich with lesser-known species. In this article, we’ll focus on why the conservation of Parnassius apollo is so crucial and how it acts as a bioindicator, offering valuable insights into the health of its habitat.
The umbrella effect
Imagine a majestic forest, vibrant with life. Within it, an umbrella opens, shielding the delicate flora and fauna beneath from the harsh elements of habitat loss and environmental degradation. This metaphorical umbrella is the Parnassius apollo, a butterfly species that holds a vital position in the web of life.
When we say “umbrella species,” we mean that by looking after the Parnassius apollo, we actually keep many other animals and places safe too. We often talk a lot about saving big animals like tigers and pandas, but small creatures like the Apollo butterflies need our help too.
The domino effect of conservation
By focusing on the preservation of the Parnassius apollo and its habitat, we unintentionally protect countless other species living in the same ecosystem. This butterfly’s presence is indicative of a healthy and intact environment, with thriving populations of plants, insects, and other organisms that rely on the same resources.
The Parnassius apollo acts as an umbrella species, not only for the protection of biodiversity but also for the preservation of habitat mosaics. These mosaic-like habitats are composed of various interconnected ecosystems, creating a rich and diverse landscape. By conserving the species itself, we, in turn, protect other species and habitats associated with it.
Many butterfly species benefit from habitat conservation measures taken to protect the Apollo. A significant number of these butterflies find themselves listed in Red Books of Animals and other rare and endangered species lists, highlighting the critical importance of the Apollo’s preservation.
A sensitive bioindicator
Beyond its role as an umbrella species, the Parnassius apollo serves as a remarkable bioindicator. A bioindicator is a species whose status provides valuable information about the overall health of its ecosystem. In the case of Parnassius apollo, it proves to be particularly sensitive in this regard, making it an invaluable asset in environmental monitoring.
One of the specific areas where the Parnassius apollo excels as a bioindicator is in the monitoring of xerothermic biotopes—ecosystems characterized by hot, dry conditions. These habitats are under constant threat due to climate change and human activities. As an indicator species, the Parnassius apollo can tell us a great deal about the quality and health of these fragile environments. If the butterfly thrives, it suggests that the ecosystem is healthy and stable, while a decline in its population signals potential problems.
Protect Apollo, protect our planet
In a world where nature faces many challenges, the Parnassius apollo stands out as a true hero. It’s not just looking out for itself but also for a whole community of other creatures and the places they call home. And, it’s also a smart detective, helping us understand how our environment is doing. By taking care of the Apollo, we’re not just helping one species; we’re making sure that the amazing web of life on Earth remains strong and healthy. This butterfly helps us protect other animals and special places like sunny meadows and rocky grasslands. By doing this, we’re making the world a better and more diverse place for the future.
Parnassius apollo belongs to a group of butterflies, which presence in Europe has a long history. We need to take a look into the past if we want to get to know the roots of this beautiful species. We would have to travel back to the time period called the Neogene.
The Neogene is a geological period, which informally is divided into either the Upper Tertiary or Late Tertiary. This period lasted from 20.6 to 2.6 million years ago, to the beginning of the present Quaternary Period. The Quaternary Period spans from the Neogene to today.
During the long period of the Neogene, the land was heavily glaciated. Glaciers appeared and retreated several times. Those periods when glaciers retreated are known as interglacial episodes.
These periods of warm climate provided an opportunity for the animal and plant life to develop, to later be swept away by the glacier and then develop again and again. This process heavily impacted butterflies, including Parnassius apollo.
Diversity of life
Research revealed that during these long periods of interglacial episodes, despite the fact that all life was swept out by huge glaciers, it repeatedly revived. This created remarkable diversity again and again. The result of this process was the enormous diversification of life.
For example, Parnassius apollo developed into more than 200 identified subspecies, which mainly inhabit grassland environments in the lowland and mountainous areas throughout Europe.
Parnassius apollo trophic preferences
Food is a vitally important precondition for the favourable status of Parnassius species. According to trophic preferences, two main groups of Parnassius developed. One group that prefers Sedum telephium, and another that feed mainly on Sedum album.
Sedum is a large genus of flowering perennial plants. Sedum species are herbs and have fleshy leaves and stems, which store water very well. This group of plants contains up to 400–500 species. Even today, Sedum provides food to many species of butterflies, including Parnassius species.
For the protection of the individual species or the entire Parnassius genus of butterflies, it is important to know what their key habitats and food needs are. This knowledge could help us identify what kind of ecosystems and biomes have been removed due to human activity and why food is not available for these butterfly species. In the following steps, activities during the restoration process should focus on recovering these extinct biomes.
The Parnassius apollo, commonly known as the Apollo butterfly, needs a very specific diet requirement for its survival and reproduction. Its larvae rely solely on specific Sedum plant species. This specialized diet is crucial for the survival and development of the Apollo butterfly throughout its life cycle. This dependence on particular plants underscores the delicate ecological relationships and the importance of preserving the habitats that support these unique species.
European Wilderness Society
#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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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.
Recently, an Apollo Garden was built in an Austrian secondary school. European Wilderness Society, one of the project partners, organised this activity and contributed to the construction itself. The school pupils were also very excited to join and help with the physical field work. Apollo gardens are part of our LIFE Apollo2020 project. They are special gardens containing food plants especially for the caterpillars, but also for the butterflies.
Another garden was built recently by the lead partner KPN in Poland, in coordination with the project partner KP. In combination with that, KPN and KP also organised a lecture at the Nature Educational Centre to which local communities were invited. Some locals also stayed on for helping with the construction of the Apollo Garden and planting butterfly food plants. Some fun activities were also organised, like painting rocks and making seed cards. For that and for the Apollo Garden, a special mix of flowers was created by KPN and KP. In the course of the project, there will be built many more Apollo Gardens.
What is an Apollo Garden?
Apollo Gardens are an important element of the LIFE Apollo2020 project. They are specially created garden plots with food plants for the Parnassius apollo butterfly and caterpillar. Some of them will be built at schools but others are also going to be installed at other public spaces like national parks. In order to support the survival and recreation of Parnassius apollo, the gardens are built in suitable butterfly habitats or in the vicinity thereof.
The most important plant for the apollo caterpillar is the sedum, which is of course also planted in the Apollo Garden. Sedum plants enjoy a rocky environment, so after planting them, we also added some rocks.
With the help of the active students, the Apollo Garden was quickly built – even in the scorching sun. We were quite satisfied with the work, and so were the students and the teacher as well as our external butterfly expert. In addition, to provide food for the butterflies we sowed some seeds for future Parnassius apollo (and other butterflies) to feed on.
Besides the Apollo Gardens, we also conducted some school workshops in Austria; the workshops focused on butterflies, including the Parnassius apollo. The students were very interested in learning about the important pollinators from our butterfly expert. They learned about the fascinating life cycle of the Parnassius apollo and how it transforms itself from egg to caterpillar to pupa to finally become the beautiful butterfly it is. Moreover, they discovered in which habitats and environments the apollo likes to live. To also create butterfly gardens at their homes, the students learned about the plants they should keep to make it more butterfly-friendly.
LIFE Apollo2020 will be presented at the Biology of Butterflies conference 2023 that takes place from 10th to 13th of July in Prague. The conference, organised every four years, gathers biologists who study evolutionary biology, behaviour, ecology, systematics, biogeography, genetics, developmental biology, and the conservation of moths and butterflies.
Representing LIFE Apollo2020 at BoB
From LIFE Apollo2020 team, Tomasz Suchan from W. Szafer Institute of Botany, Polish Academy of Sciences, will present a poster about our project. As the project has a strong scientific aspect, including genetic analyses that support our aim of establishing permanent metapopulations in the areas of reintroduction, as well as creating a coherent species conservation approach and a Breeding and Conservation Manual, it fits perfectly into the theme of the BoB conference.
LIFE Apollo2020 is looking forward to being represented at the conference, exchanging information with other butterfly experts, and disseminating results the project has obtained so far. We look forward to establishing new valuable contacts with fellow scientists valuable to the LIFE Apollo2020 project!
For more information on the conference, click here.
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.
In this article you will learn about the secrets of butterfly survival in winter conditions
Winter is a long period to which butterflies adapt in many different ways. Some of them overwinter as adults, while others undertake long migrations. Some, like Apollo spend the winter in eggs. By learning the characteristics of the Apollo butterfly cycle, you’ll realize that it doesn’t have an easy path to follow until warmer days arrive. If you want to understand our hero’s biology, learn about the longest period of his life, which is Winter. We’ll start with the prelude, which is the formation of eggs.
BEFORE EGGS ARE FORMED
The very short flight period of adult butterflies is the time devoted mainly to pairing and egg-laying. The eggs must be well constructed to provide a safty for the caterpillars in winter conditions. During copulation, the female is protected by a chitinous  material called sfragis.
After a few days, the female starts laying eggs, she is able to lay up to 300 of them. Such a number of eggs increases the chance for larvae to find a host plant , such as some species of Sedum, Sempervivum and Rhodiola.
LIFE FORMATION AND SURVIVAL
Winter and cold are harsh conditions for most butterflies. The time that the caterpillars spend in the eggs is the time that will determine their future population . It is worth considering what happens to the eggs after the female lays them, what processes are responsible for such unusual changes in nature?
The eggs have a chitinous layer that protects future caterpillars from pathogens  and high moisture. They also include various amino acids, proteins and enzymes. The eggs themselves are very solid, but they allow air to flow inside, not all of them come out perfect and not from all of them will hatch caterpillars. There are still many factors to decide. Already in the fourth week after their laying, caterpillars appear in the eggs, but for the next eight months they will lie dormant. The whole cluster will wait until the spring comes during the winter cold.
TIME AND REACTION
While waiting for the time to emerge from the egg, the caterpillar experiences many trials.
The first of them is early spring – a time when temperatures can periodically increase enough to give a false signal to the little ones to wake up. Such a situation can happen even in autumn, when the heat and warm nights last for a long time, and even in winter if there is a sudden warming. It is enough that the temperature rises at night and the morning rays of the sun warm the eggs. For the caterpillars, such a change means death due to the returning cold and lack of food. The large number of eggs produced by each female increases the chances that some will hatch at the right moment. This is one of many adaptations to the conditions in which the butterfly lives.
In the end of Winter and start of Spring comes the proper period of awakening for caterpillars. Depending on the region, it can be slightly shifted in time, but usually it is between March and April. It may also happen that winter will shift and warming will come later. The nights are still chilly in the mountains, but time is pressing as the nutrient material inside the egg is running out. When the time comes, the caterpillars will begin to feed on the egg wall and will chew through its shell. They will then gain strength and take off quickly in search of a host plant.
Adult butterflies equipped with wings are not particularly fast, but their caterpillars are determined to move very quickly. If these little caterpillars don’t find food in time, they won’t survive. This is another adaptation that increases the chances of survival of the species.
A year in the life of a butterfly is trials, chances and races, a series of successes and failures. All this to close the cycle and make the next generation of species. Only in this way they can survive in a harsh and rapidly changing world.
- chitin – a chemical compound (polysacharide) forming the upper skeleton in some organisms along with proteins, calcium and magnesium salts obtained with food in the case of insects.
- host plant – a plant that the organism needs for development in most of its life cycle.
- population – a group of individuals of one species inhabiting a given area at a certain time.
-pathogens – biological agents that cause diseases in living organisms, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi.
Les Pages Entomogoliques d’Andre Lequet. European Lepidoptera and their ecology: Parnassius apollo
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