Mountain Apollo (Parnassius apollo)

April 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

A large white butterfly with large orange or red spots and clear areas on the wings. It is described as a good flyer, but it also comes off as a bit clumsy when it flutters over meadows, flapping its large wings. The Apollo loves natural chalky slopes. It is found near mountain streams, meadows where streams originate, and inundated ground, where the plants on which they feed grow. A preference for the Apollo butterfly is the flowers of thistles. The caterpillar’s favorite food plant is stonecrop (Sedum).

The Apollo is only active in bright sunlight, and flies from June to August.

The female lays many hundred tiny white eggs, from which caterpillars emerges. The caterpillars are velvety black with orange-red spots along the sides. The caterpillar may molt (discard its old skin) as many as 5 times before it is fully grown. The next stage is to bury itself in the ground, where it will pupate in debris on the ground, forming a loose, silky cocoon.  In the pupal stage, its body dissolves completely and is then rebuilt as a butterfly. The chrysalis bursts open and the adult emerges. When the wings have expanded and the skin hardened, it flies off. The average lifespan of an adult butterfly is just a few weeks.

Mount Parnassus is a mountain of limestone in central Greece. This mountain was sacred to Apollo; it was also the home of the Muses.

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