Rocky Mountain Apollos are translucent yellowish white with black, grey, and red markings. On the dorsal forewing the marginal grey band is variably developed, and the submarginal band is weakly developed and pale grey.
The forewing margin usually has small triangles of black at each vein. The dorsal or ventral hindwings usually have at least faint marginal and submarginal grey markings. The wing fringes are mostly distinctly black at the ends of the veins. The hairs and scales on the head, legs, and ventral abdomen of both sexes are yellowish. Both sexes usually have red spots on the hindwings, and frequently also on the forewings, that are much smaller on average than those of Phoebus Apollos. High-elevation populations have darker females, and both males and females are smaller than at low elevations. The antennae are ringed with black and white bands. The sphragis of the female is small and dark brown. Shepard and Manley (1998) have shown that this and Parnassius phoebus are separate species.
Eggs are white, spherical but flattened at the top and bottom, and with a pebbled surface. The micropylar area is brownish and sunken. First instar larvae have black bodies, are quite hairy, and have dull black heads. Mature larvae are black, with many short, fine black hairs and with two lateral and two dorsal rows of bright yellow spots. The vestigial osmeteria are small and pale yellow. Pupae are dark yellow brown to red brown, and are formed in a weak cocoon in litter on the ground.
Shepard and Shepard (1975) reduced the number of subspecies to approximately the modern concept. Rocky Mountain populations are the nominate subspecies, smintheus; TL: Rock Lake, near Jasper, AB (Shepard 1984). Adults are moderate in size and quite light in colour. Coast Range, Southern Interior, and Central Interior populations are subspecies magnus W.G. Wright, 1905 (TL: Enderby, BC) (= xanthus Ehrmann, 1918; TL: Moron [sic; Moscow], ID). Adults are generally large and are highly variable in colour, ranging from white with most black markings reduced or absent, to a unique population in Silver Star Mountain Provincial Park in which females are almost completely slate grey. Females are frequently yellowish in low-elevation populations of both smintheus and magnus, especially when fresh. Tom Manley (in prep.) suggests that within the Southern Interior distribution of magnus, smintheus occurs at very high elevation (2,500 m) in Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park. This hypothesis is not as unreasonable as it may at first appear, once late glacial and early postglacial history is considered. Vancouver Island populations are subspecies olympiannus Burdick, 1941 (TL: Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, WA). Adults are small and the Mature larva females are very dark. Subspecies guppyi Wyatt, 1969; TL: Mt. Cokely, Vancouver Island, BC (Guppy 1998), is a synonym of olympiannus. Northwestern BC populations are subspecies yukonensis Eisner, 1969 (TL: 5 miles southwest of Haines Junction, YT). The type series was collected by Arthur M. Pearson, and supplied to Eisner by James Ebner (Ebner, pers. comm.; Pearson, pers. comm.). Adults are small and very white, with greatly reduced black and grey markings and with prominent red markings.
The species name smintheus is an alternative name of the Greek god Apollo that refers to the Sminthia district, where Apollo was worshipped. The subspecies name olympiannus refers to the Olympic Mountains, the type locality of the subspecies. The subspecies name magnus is Latin for great, large, big, referring to the large size of adults. The subspecies name yukonensis refers to the Yukon Territory. The common name was used for the first time by Layberry et al. (1998), and refers to the distribution being centred on the Rocky Mountains.
The name Parnassius is derived from the Parnassus mountain range near Delphi in Greece, in reference to the alpine habitats of most species (Emmet 1991). Linnaeus divided butterflies into several groups, the second of which was the Heliconii, which took their name from the Muses and Graces that lived on Mt. Helicon, the highest peak in the Parnassus range. Apollo was the patron god of the Muses and Graces, and the first species of Linnaeus's Heliconii was Papilio apollo (Emmet 1991), now known as Parnassius apollo. The common name "apollo" was first applied in Britain by British lepidopterists to the one species P. apollo (Bretherton 1990a), and was later extended to apply to the genus as a whole.
Apollos are medium-sized to large white or yellow butterflies with black wing markings. Red eyespots are usually present on the hindwings and, in two species, on the forewings. The outer borders of the wings are semi-transparent due to lack of scales. Two hooks on the forewing base help in the emergence of the adult from the pupal cocoon (Scott 1986b). Females have a brown or white sphragis, a hard structure deposited in the female mating tube by the male during mating to prevent further matings.
The abdomens of the males are very hairy, possibly to reduce heat loss during their long flights searching for females. In contrast, the abdomens of the females are naked or sparsely haired, possibly enabling them to reduce overheating on the hot ground, where they spend most of their time.
Unlike most butterflies, the eyes of males are much larger than those of females. It is unlikely that the only reason for this is that males locate females visually at a distance, because that is true for most butterflies. It may be correlated with the lack of courtship prior to mating: a male simply grapples with a female as soon as he spots her, and attempts copulation. If the female has already mated, the male attempts to grasp the sphragis with his claspers and remove it (CSG).
Eggs are round with a pebbled or pitted surface, and are white to tan in colour. They are laid singly under the edges of objects in the general vicinity of the larval foodplants. Phoebus Apollos may lay eggs directly on the larval food plant (Shepard and Manley 1998). The embryo develops into a larva within the egg chorion within a few weeks of oviposition, but the egg does not hatch until the following spring (Edwards 1868-72).
The larvae have small, vestigial osmeteria (Y-shaped, eversible defensive secretory glands) on the top of the thorax; these are frequently not everted when a larva is "attacked" with forceps, and do not produce any chemical secretion. Pupation occurs in weak cocoons in loose soil or debris on the ground.
Rocky Mountain Apollos are univoltine, and fly from the first week of June at low elevations to late September in alpine tundra. Eggs are laid singly on the underside of flower heads, leaves, sticks, stones, moss, clumps of dirt, and even on the larval foodplant. The embryo develops into a first instar larva within a month of oviposition, but the egg does not hatch until the snow melts the next spring. Larvae spend much of their time off their foodplant, basking in the sun on the ground. They prefer to feed on the leaves and flowers of the inflorescence, but also eat the basal leaves. The larval period is about 10-12 weeks, with pupation occurring within a feeble cocoon in loose debris on the ground.
Larval foodplants are stonecrop species (Harvey 1908), including S. divergens, S. oreganum (both mostly for coastal BC populations), S. lanceolatum, S. stenopetalum (interior BC populations), and S. integrifolium (occasional alpine interior populations) (CSG). Many garden stonecrops are toxic to the larvae; and at least the first four stonecrop species listed are toxic to larvae from November to February, inclusive (CSG). The lowest elevation for successful reproduction of Rocky Mountain Apollos is that above where the snow melts before March. If the snow melts before March, the eggs hatch while the larval foodplant is still toxic and the larvae die. In years when snow remains on the ground at low elevations into March in the Okanagan Valley, adult Rocky Mountain Apollos are seen at unusually low elevations. They apparently stem from eggs laid the previous year by females flying down from higher elevations (CSG).
Rocky Mountain Apollos are found in most areas of BC. The habitat is that of their larval foodplants: thinly vegetated, dry, open areas that are generally south-facing slopes or short-grass alpine tundra.
Rocky Mountain Apollos are found in western North America from southwestern YT south to northern CA, northeastern NV, and northern NM.
Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2012. E-Fauna BC:
Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab
for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed:
5/18/2013 2:29:37 PM]
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