Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 80–100 mm. The wings somewhat translucent. The fringes not banded (relatively very narrow). Slender-bodied to medium built; very short-bodied. The eyes glabrous. Antennae reaching noticeably less than halfway to the wingtips (very short); extending to about 0.24–0.27 times the length of the forewing. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate to abrupt; not curved; not flattened (not pale-tipped, terminating in a small point). Labial palps ascending (appressed to frons). Having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs without spurs. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 100 degrees. The outer margins convexly curved; somewhat crenate. Uppersides of the forewings white and grey (-ish, semi-transparent); not conspicuously dark-veined (although the venation is very conspicuous); rather ambiguously with a conspicuous discal mark (owing to presence of other spots); patterned with a dark basal patch, dark blotches beneath the costa, a dark spot near the hind margin, and a grey outer marginal band with pale spots within it.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded (the inner margin concave); not tailed; crenate. Uppersides of the hindwings white and grey (-ish, semi-transparent like the forewings); not dark-veined (although the venation is very conspicuous); conspicuously patterned. Uppersides of the hindwings eye-spotted. The eye-spots 2; near the mid-costa and more or less in the middle. Uppersides of the hindwings without a discal mark; with a dark basal patch, a grey outer margin like the fore-wings, and a pair of red-and-white, black-encircled eye-spots.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings complexly colour-patterned as a pallid duplication of the upperside; not dark-veined (although the venation is very conspicuous).

Undersides of the hindwings complexly colour-patterned as a pallid duplication of the upperside; not dark-veined (although the venation is very conspicuous); eye-spotted (cf. the uppersides). The eye-spots 2; near the mid-costa and more or less central. Undersides of the hindwings without a discal mark.

Wing venation. Forewings 11 veined; without basally dilated veins. Forewings with 2 tubular anal veins; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only; vein 1b simple. Forewings with a discal cell; vein 2 departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (from about halfway). Forewing veins 6 and 7 stalked, 8 out of 7, 9 connate with the 6+7 stalk, and a separate vein perhaps representing 10+11.

Hindwings 8 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 1 anal vein; lacking vein 1a; the anal veins representing 1b only. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell (with vein 7 arising from the middle of the heavy praecostal spur: a conspicuous peculiar feature). The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs sub-globular (?); more or less smooth. The larvae hairy; with a pair of tentacles from segment 2 (these fleshy, pinkish-orange, retractile); exposed feeders. On Crassulaceae.

Pupae smooth and rounded; without shining-metallic markings; more or less concealed.

British representation. 2 species (both adventive). Parnassius apollo (Apollo), Parnassius phoebus (Small Apollo). The adults abroad June to August.

Status in Britain. Rare ocurrence representing occasional, genuine immigrants, or adventive, or formerly indigenous but now extinct. The holarctic species P. phoebus seems to be a spurious inclusion in British check-lists, on the evidence of a single record from North Wales in the late 19th Century. Individuals of the alpine P. apollo, on the other hand, may rarely appear in Britain as vagrants from mainland Europe. Evidence for its once being resident was provided by no less an authority than John Curtis, who “..... was convinced he saw a specimen .... flying over the top of a house at the foot of Ben Lawers; and afterwards, on seeing this species on the Continent, he felt assured he was correct.” (J.C. Dale, in Newman 1871).

Distribution. Northern Scotland, or southern Scotland (?). Frequenting open places. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Comments. Strong fliers, the pattern irregular, often gliding.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Papilionidae.

Illustrations. • Parnassius apollo (Apollo): photos. • P. apollo, larva and pupa: Duponchel (1849). • Parnassius apollo (Apollo: Shaw & Nodder). • Parnassius phoebus (Small Apollo): Hübner, 1805.. • Parnassius phoebus (Small Apollo: Kirby, 1907). • Swallow-tailed and Apollo: Newman, 1871.

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Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.