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Apollo. (52)
peter_stoeckl Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1738 W: 291 N: 4005] (11530)
Apollo.

Red Apollo, Roter Apollo, Apollofjäril, Isoapollo, Niepylak apollo, Jasoň červenooký, Gorski apolon, Червен аполон, Аполлон обыкновенный, Apollo kelebeği, Apolló-lepke, Apolo tximeleta, Mariposa Apollo, Apollon...

Parnassius apollo (Linnaeus, 1758)

Subfamily: Parnassiinae
Family: Papilionidae
Wing span: 65 - 90 mm.

Apollo is considered to be rare and threatended, and it is protected by law for good reasons. The butterfly is a rather frequent guest on TN. Meeting this large, shiningly transparent and strangely marked butterfly on a steep mountain meadow never fails to be an exciting experience.

Going up Sonnleitstein, a quite remote and little known limestone peak within a distance of one and a half driving hours south of Vienna last weekend we expected to have a magnificent view while finding most meadows brown and dry, most flowers gone by the arrival of September in the Alpine mountains - maybe just a few exceptions like silver thistles, willow gentiana, Cyclamen, and Autumn crocus, and certainly very few butterflies left.

As expected, there were very few butterflies, just a few aged and worn specimen of Erebia, a few Small Whites, some Small Tortoise Shells. So it came as a surprise that near the rocky top of the peak, several large white butterflies were slowly sailing and landing at remote flowers between the rocks - Parnassius apollo. We remember to have seen the species in that region as early as the end of May, with a peak in June and early July. Now, that late in the year, we would have expected to meet just a few aged specimens. During our resting hour at noon we were lucky to watch probably a dozen of them, some of them really old and torn, with red eye-spots bleached and fade: But some of them were in remarkably good order.

That broad range of Apollos of different ages at this time of the year came as a surprise to me. The other surprise was to find a considerable variation in their markings within a small and probably locally restricted population: not only pale individuals – male ones, dark individuals – females, but also some of them showing very large eye spots, some oft them just small ones, eye spots with white centres, eye spots fully red without any white, red spots at the inner discal region where others would show black spots only. It is a very variable species with much variation within a population. The identification of distinctive local races – as it has been tried repeatedly - should be rather difficult.

As a caterpillar, Apollo requires a dry and stony or rocky habitat where its feeding plant – Sedum album or Sedum telephium (stonecrop) – will grow. As a butterfly, it may leave those barren grounds for rather short distances only to visit meadows with thistles (Cirsium sp.) that are preferred as a rich source of nectar. This time, we have seen them visiting Gentiana campestris and Aconitum napellum, too.

During daytime, Apollo butterflies would show some hilltopping behaviour – indeed. Here we found them close to the peak of Sonnleitstein (1639m) at an elevation of approximately 1600m above sea level.

It was after an extended and rather hectical photographic shooting with much creeping up and down the steep meadow between the rocks, and photographic results of some documentary but little artistic value, that we decided to go down again. That very moment I discovered another quite fresh looking Apollo sitting and feeding in a very relaxed way on Knautia arvensis within perfect reach just beside the path. A large cloud was resting over the top of the peak, giving pleasantly dimmed light lasting for several minutes, and the resulting cool air obviously made the butterfly even more patient. Here’s some result of that private session.

The same individual seen from above may be viewed in the workshop.

By the way, on the Knautia blossom you may also discover some red Velvet Mites waiting for a victim or a ride. That might ask for a description of the parasitic feeding habits of Trombidiidae. But enough for today.

Literature:
Christian Stettmer, Markus Bräu, Patrick Gros, Otmar Wanninger: Die Tagfalter Bayerns und Österreichs, Laufen/Salzach 2007
Tom Tolman, Richard Lewington: Collins Butterfly Guide, London 2008
Christopher Jonko: Butterflies and Moths of Europe. http://www.lepidoptera.pl/

The camera:
SONY DSC-HX1, 3456 x 2592 pixels, sRGB, 9 mm macro zoom (equivalent 50 mm at full size SLR), F/8, 1/500sec., ISO-125, bias: -0.7, hand held, fill flash. 03.09.2011, 14:35.

Postwork: Photoshop CS4, slightly cropped, levels adjusted, selectively resharpened after downsize to web.

Have a very good day.

Altered Image #1

peter_stoeckl Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1738 W: 291 N: 4005] (11530)
Seen the other way round.
Edited by:peter_stoeckl Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1738 W: 291 N: 4005] (11530)

A male of Parnassius apollo visiting the peak of Sonnleitstein in Lower Austria in September, 2011.

The camera: SONY DSC-HX1, 3456 x 2592 pixels, sRGB, 11 mm macro zoom (equivalent 60 mm at full size SLR), F/4, 1/1000sec., ISO-125, bias: -0.7, hand held, no flash. 03.09.2011, 14:30.

Postwork: Photoshop CS4, slightly cropped, levels adjusted, selectively resharpened after downsize to web.

Hope you enjoy.