Apollo Butterfly: Identification, Life Cycle, and Behavior

Delve into the fascinating world of the Apollo butterfly, a unique and colorful creature known for its distinctive characteristics.

In this article, you’ll develop a comprehensive understanding of their lifecycle, behavior, and the challenges they face.

Prepare to be enthralled by the captivating journey of these remarkable insects.

Apollo Butterfly

What is the Classification of Apollo Butterfly?

The Apollo Butterfly, commonly known as mountain Apollo or simply Apollo, is a beautiful and mesmerizing insect.

Scientifically, it belongs to the genus Parnassius and falls under the family Papilionidae, famous for comprising some of the most colorful and largest butterflies in the world.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Parnassius
  • Species: P. apollo

This classification places the Apollo Butterfly in the same order as all butterflies and moths, Lepidoptera. It shares its family, Papilionidae, with other large and brightly colored species.

The grouping of Apollo Butterfly under the Parnassius genus signifies its distinctive qualities such as chill-tolerant nature and high-altitude habitation, making it unique from other family members.

So, when you think of Apollo butterfly, remember the order and family: Lepidoptera and Papilionidae, respectively, and of course its unique genus, Parnassius.

What is the Distribution of Apollo Butterfly?

You might be wondering where you’d find these fascinating creatures. The Apollo butterfly predominantly populates regions across Europe and Asia. It’s often spotted in countries like Spain, France, and Italy from the west, stretching eastwards to parts of Siberia, Russia.

  • Notable for its broad range of habitat choices, this butterfly graces the cool, temperate grasslands, high-altitude alpine meadows, and rocky cliffs. Its diverse habitat lends to its equally diverse distribution.

Although concentrated most densely in both Europe and Asia, the butterfly’s distribution does not stop there. You might spot Apollo butterflies in North Africa, a testament to their adaptability and resilience.

The butterfly, however, has a particular fondness for higher altitudes, often residing at heights of 500 to 2,000 meters (approximately, 1,600 to 6,500 feet).

High up in these habitats, they’re least disturbed and can live out their life cycles undisturbed.

Like many other species, though, the distribution of Apollo butterflies can vary seasonally. Come summer; these butterflies often migrate to lower altitudes to breed and nectar.

Afterward, they head back to their preferred, high-altitude zones once winter approaches again.

What are the Main Characteristics of the Apollo Butterfly?

Apollo butterflies are distinctive and easily recognizable due their unique set of characteristics. The main highlights include their wings, color, size, and distinguishing marks.

  • Wing Shape: They possess a pair of large, rounded wings. These wings extend in length from 2.2 to 2.6 inches (56 to 66 mm).
  • Color: The most striking feature is their striking white to red-brown color. The back wings are adorned with four to six black to red eye spots.
  • Size: Besides their color, they’re also recognized by their size. With a wingspan that varies between 2.4 to 3.2 inches (60 to 80 mm), they are among the medium to large-sized butterflies.
  • Distinguishing Marks: Female butterflies typically possess smaller and fewer red spots than males. They also have a slight size advantage, being generally larger than the males.

Observing these details will help you identify the Apollo butterflies with ease. It’s essential to note that, like any living species, individual Apollo butterflies might display some variations to these key characteristics.

How to Identify Male and Female Apollo Butterfly?

Identifying male and female Apollo butterflies is a practical task, and luckily, it’s not too complex. Being aware of a few key features will aid in effective identification.

Males, in general, have a brighter white color and larger patches of black on their wings. Their wings are wider, ranging from 2.4 to 2.8 inches (60 to 70mm), and seem rounder in shape.

Males have brighter red eye spots on the wings. Also importantly, males lack the characteristic streaks on the underside of their hind wings, which females have.

On the other hand, females have a more cream-white color to their wings. Their wings span between 2.2 to 2.6 inches (55 to 65mm) and have a more narrow, elongated shape compared to males.

Females feature smaller, less vibrant red eye spots. Telling sign to identify them is to look for the presence of transversal bands or streaks on the underside of their hind wings, which males lack.

In summary, focusing on wing color, shape, red eye spots, and streaks on the hind wings should make it possible to identify male and female Apollo butterflies accurately. Could be a fun, yet educational nature activity for everyone to enjoy.

What is the Mating Ritual of Apollo Butterfly?

The mating practices of the Apollo Butterfly are rooted in display and chase. Male Apollos are drawn to areas boasting species-specific wildflowers, hoping to catch the eye of a female. Using a mix of scent and vision, they flutter around the location to visually spot a suitable mate.

Upon sighting a female, a complex dance of chase and courtship begins. The male pursues the female in a quick, zigzag flying pattern. This can be an energetic sight to observers, as both butterflies take turns in chasing each other.

If the female is impressed, she will accept by allowing the male to mount. After mating, they will fly together for a short while, before eventually separating.

Interestingly enough, after a successful mating, the female Apollo may reject further advances with an unresponsive pose.

Remember, mating season usually falls in late spring to early summer, roughly between May and August. It’s during this period that witnessing their charming courtship dances is most likely.

What Does the Caterpillar of Apollo Butterfly Look Like?

The caterpillar of an Apollo Butterfly is certainly a sight to behold. Its most captivating traits are beyond doubt its vivid green body and patterned red spots. The Apollo caterpillar can grow up to 2.5 inches (roughly 6.35 cm) in length.

Its body is adorned is with fuzzy white hairs, giving it an almost fluffy look. Of course, that’s not to be mistaken for cuddly! These hairs actually serve a defensive purpose, deterring potential predators.

Apollo caterpillar has a distinct head, which is significantly darker than its body, almost black. This, set against the light green of its body, creates an impressive stark contrast.

What is the Life Cycle of Apollo Butterfly?

The life cycle of an Apollo Butterfly is fascinating and multifaceted. In essence, it undergoes four distinct stages egglarvapupa, and adult. Each stage holds its own unique characteristics and behaviors.

  • Egg

The journey of an Apollo Butterfly begins as an egg. Females lay their eggs in early summer, choosing the leaves of various host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars only after about 15 days.

  • Larva

Upon hatching, the Apollo Butterfly larvae, also known as caterpillars, immediately begin their primary function – feeding. They feed on the leaves of their host plants, expanding rapidly. After a period of continuous feeding that lasts about 3-4 weeks, they reach their full size and are ready to transform into pupae.

  • Pupa

This transformation stage, also known as pupation, sees the caterpillar encase itself in a hard shell called a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the true magic of metamorphosis occurs. The caterpillar begins to dramatically change shape and form, transforming into a butterfly over a period of about two weeks.

  • Adult

Emerging from the chrysalis, the fully grown Apollo Butterfly takes flight. Adults have a short life span of around three weeks. Males and females mate and the females lay eggs, ensuring the survival of the species.

Remember, each stage in the Apollo Butterfly life cycle has distinct morphological differences and behavioral traits so keep these in mind when identifying these splendid creatures.

Their incredible transformation from egg to butterfly is truly a testament to the wonders of nature.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of an Apollo Butterfly?

The adult Apollo butterfly, known scientifically as Parnassius apollo, has a comparatively short lifespan. These magnificent creatures, once they have emerged from their cocoon and spread their stark white wings, only have about one to three weeks to live.

To put these numbers in perspective, the average life expectancy of an Apollo butterfly is considerably shorter than other butterfly species. Despite their seemingly fleeting presence, this brief window of adulthood is vital for the Apollo butterfly.

Firstly, their limited adult life stage is characterized by an intense flurry of activity. Apollo butterflies spend their short time as adults primarily mating and laying eggs.

The females carefully select their host plants, primarily stonecrops and houseleeks, to lay their eggs, aiming for the highest chance survival of the next generation.

Secondly, the constrained timeframe of their adult life also presents an imperative for scientists aiming to understand more about these remarkable creatures.

Short though it may be, the adult life expectancy of the Apollo butterfly plays a vital part in understanding the life cycle and behavior of this fascinating species.

What Does the Diet of an Apollo Butterfly Consist Of?

The dietary preference of the Apollo butterfly is quite simple yet fascinating. Unlike most species of butterflies that sip nectar from various flowers, Apollo butterflies have a different strategy.

They are often labeled as hilltoppers due to their specific behavior of moving uphill to drink mineral-rich water.

During the early stages of their life, as larvae, they feed primarily on the leaves of certain plant species, such as sedums (stonecrops) and orpines.

This diet ensures they intake all the necessary nutrients for growth and development. To survive and thrive, these butterflies seek specific plants that belong to the genus Sedum and Orpine.

As adults, their diet switches to a liquid intake mode. They prefer taking in mineral-rich water, which can be found in moist areas or wet substrates, like on top of mountains or hilltops.

Specifically, the adult Apollo butterflies preferentially choose wet spots that are rich in sodium. The act of sipping up salty water is a crucial behavior known as puddling.

During puddling, these butterflies acquire not only water but also essential salts and amino acids necessary for their survival and eventually for successful breeding as well.

However, it’s notable to say that they may also sip nectar on a rare occasion. They exhibit a preference for flowers that display their favorite colors – red, pink, or purple.

It is indeed a simple diet, but the search for food takes the Apollo butterfly on an intriguing journey, climbing hills and locating specific plants.

Which Plants Serve as the Primary Hosts for Apollo Butterfly?

Apollo butterflies, or Parnassius apollo, specifically thrive on a group of plants, predominantly the species known as stonecrop and houseleek.

These include the Sedum species, the butterfly’s primary host. Plant availability directly affects their population and distribution patterns.

  • The Apollo Butterfly’s larvae predominantly feed on the Orpine plant (Sedum telephium). This stonecrop family member is a favorite due to its juiciness and availability in high altitudes.
  • Other sedums, such as Houseleek (Sedum acre) and White Stonecrop (Sedum album), are also popular choices.
  • In certain regions, the larvae might also feed on plants from the pink family like Honesty (Lunaria annua).

However, Apollo Butterfly isn’t picky and can adapt, if their preferred host plants are unavailable. This ability to adapt is key to their survival, mostly in harsh alpine environments.

What are the Unique Mimicry Behaviors in Apollo Butterfly?

Apollo butterflies, much like other butterfly species, participate in Batesian mimicry. This term refers to a form of mimetic behavior where a harmless species imitates the warning signals of a harmful one to deter potential predators.

Specifically, Apollo butterflies mimic the aposematic colorations of toxic or distasteful species by sporting white wings with bright red or black spots. These spots can frighten away predators as they mimic the eyes of larger creatures.

A key point to note is that this form of behavior conducts for a significant part of Apollo butterflies’ survival strategy. It helps them successfully navigate their ecosystems and avoid threats.

Moreover, Apollo butterflies further embrace mimicry through their positioning when resting. They tend to tilt diagonally, copying the appearance of dead leaves to blend into their surroundings.

This gives an extra layer of camouflage, tricking would-be hunters into thinking they are nothing more than another piece of the forest floor.

Lastly, the Apollo butterflies’ mimicry behavior is not static; it differs based on their geographical locations.

For example, spots on Apollo butterflies in the northern regions are usually black, imitating the harmful species there, while those from the southern region have red spots.

In conclusion, Apollo butterflies exploit mimicry to shield themselves from predators. They use their colors and posture to mimic harmful creatures and their environment, making them masters of camouflage.

What Are the Main Threats to Apollo Butterfly Populations?

The Apollo Butterfly is indeed a splendid creation of nature. But its existence hangs in precarious balance due to certain threats.

Habitat destruction is a grave threat to the Apollo Butterfly. Urban development, agriculture, mining or forestry activities could gravely impact their natural habitats.

Habitats get altered or completely destroyed, leaving them with nowhere to survive and reproduce.

Climate change, marked by erratic weather patterns and rising global temperatures, appears to be another profound threat. Such shifts in climate conditions could disrupt their life cycle, impact their breeding patterns, and may even modify the availability of their preferred host plants.

Pesticide exposure greatly threatens Apollo Butterfly populations. Many farmers and gardeners use pesticides and insecticides which, though aimed at pests, often harm non-target species like the Apollo Butterfly.

These chemicals could directly kill them, or create sub-lethal effects impacting their health, reproductive capacity, and life expectancy.

These threats, combined with illegal collections by fanciers and entomologists, add to the stress on the Apollo Butterfly populations.

Integrated conservation efforts focusing on protecting their habitats, adapting sustainable agricultural practices, and stringent regulations on collections are critically needed to ensure this species continues to adorn the face of Earth.


In essence, the life and characteristics of the Apollo Butterfly are truly fascinating. Each stage of their life cycle, as well as their behavior and diet, reveals nature’s beauty and intricacies.

We would love to know your thoughts or any experiences you have had with this butterfly, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Butterflies   Updated: September 13, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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