E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Parnassius eversmanni Latreille, 1804
Apollos; Eversmann's Parnassian
Family: Papilionidae (Swallowtails and Apollos)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC
Photo of species

© Ian Gardiner  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5783)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Parnassius eversmanni in British Columbia
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Species Information


Eversmann's Apollos have yellow males and white to light yellow females, with dark markings all the same shade of grey. The ventral hindwing veins are light brown at the base. There are red spots on the hindwings but never on the forewings. In females the red spot in the centre of the hindwing is connected to the other spots with a black bar, forming a black band containing a series of red spots. The antennae are black. The sphragis of the female is moderately large, and is white to light brown.

Immature Stages

Eversmann's Apollos have not been reared in North America. The descriptions of the egg, larvae, and pupae given by Scott (1986b) and Layberry et al. (1998) are based on descriptions in the literature of Asian populations. Eggs are white. Larvae are black, with short black hair and a lateral row of white to yellowish dashes separated by dots of the same colour; the head is black. Pupae are dark reddish brown, in a thin silk cocoon (Scott 1986b).


Eversmann's Apollo was originally described from Kansk, in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia. The actual collection site for the type specimens was probably in spurs of the East Sayan Mountains closest to the town of Kansk (Tuzov 1997). The North American subspecies is P. eversmanni thor Hy. Edwards, 1881 (TL: Yukon River, about 160 km from the river mouth). Eversmann's Apollos from Pink Mountain in northeastern BC were named subspecies meridionalis Eisner, 1978, and then renamed pinkensis Gauthier, 1984 because the name meridionalis had previously been used for another Parnassius. Both names are synonyms of subspecies thor; Eversmann's Apollos from Pink Mountain are the same as in the rest of Alaska, Yukon, and BC.

Genus Description

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.


Eversmann's Apollos are univoltine, flying in June and July. The life cycle is probably the same as for the Asian populations, with the eggs laid singly in the general vicinity of the larval foodplant, under objects such as leaves, sticks, and rocks. In Asia, eggs containing fully developed larvae hibernate the first year and pupae hibernate a second year, resulting in a two-year life cycle (Tuzov 1997). Males patrol large areas and are easily spotted, while females spend little time in flight and are more difficult to find.

The larval foodplant of Eversmann's Apollos is unknown in North America. Known larval foodplants elsewhere are in the Fumariaceae: Corydalis arctica, C. gorodkovi, C. paeonipholia, and C. pauciflora in Asia (Tuzov 1997), and Dicentra peregrina in Japan (Scott 1986a). The most likely larval foodplant in North America appears to be Corydalis pauciflora, although the individual plants are so small that one larva would have to eat many plants to reach maturity.


Eversmann's Apollos are known from scattered locations in montane northern BC near Atlin, Pink Mountain, Smithers, and Terrace. The species is likely more widely distributed in the mountains of BC north of Highway 16, but has not been found there due to limited access. Most populations are associated with the shrub zone between timberline and alpine tundra, although individuals are also found in high alpine tundra and in lower forest clearings.



Eversmann's Apollos occur across northern Asia. In North America the distribution is restricted to AK, YT, northern BC, and extreme western NT.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. 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: 2024-07-17 10:48:02 PM]
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