The beautiful butterfly Parnassius apollo of the Papilionidae family is found in mountainous areas. Twenty-three subspecies have been recorded on the Iberian Peninsula, four of which in Andalusia. Unfortunately the Parnassius apollo subspecies gadorensis (Sierra de Gador) is likely to be extinguished and the disappearance of the subspecies filabricus (Sierra de Filabres and Baza) is being feared. The population of the subspecies mariae (Sierra de Maria) is considered stable after there was a period of regression. Of our Parnassius apollo subspecies nevadensis the reports are more optimistic. It is stated that they can be locally abundant and that there is a stable trend. This is no guarantee as the other subspecies of the Sierra de Gador and the Sierra de Filabres were just as abundant twenty-five years ago. The Parnassius apollo subspecies nevadens is being monitored by the Observatioro de Cambio global de Sierra Nevada at the Altas Cumbre, Loma de Papeles, Hoya de la Mora and the Lagunilla Seca. They write that the Parnassius apollo is probably one of the best indicators of ecosystem changes related to climate variations. Its larval food plants are sedum, sempervivum and bryophylum, so these are studied as well as the nectar sources of the apollo. In an earlier post we wrote about spotting the Parnassius apollo subspecies nevadensis near the top of the Morrón del Mediodía. This summer we have seen many apollos on the Loma del Chullo, the Loma de Piedra Ventana and the Loma de las Albardas. To photograph a butterfly you either need a lot of patience or catch it when inactive (the apollo is said to be inactive on cloudy days), feeding or mating. Last Sunday we were lucky to see a mating couple. We quickly took this photograph and then left them alone. On the website of Matt Rowling we found an additional note on the mating behaviour of the apollo. "One of the amazing features of this genus (shared by some other butterflies too) is the structure called the 'sphragus'. It is a hard structure that is deposited on the female's abdomen by the male during mating. It physically prevents the female mating a second time." On Wikipedia and on other websites we read that the apollo is found above 1,000 metres up to 2,000 metres. This is not correct taking the subspecies nevadensis into account. In Sierra Nevada it flies up to 3,000 metres. The proof is this mating couple that we photographed on the Loma de las Albardes at an altitude of 2,860 metres. The females are said to have ´darker´ wings, so on our photograph that should be the one with the orange eye-spots on the hindwings. The wings of the male are said to be ´whiter´, so this must be the one with the more yellowy eyespots.
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