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Genus Parnassius

Unknown Butterfly - Top View - Parnassius smintheus - male Butterfly on Old-Man-of-the-Mountain (Rydbergia grandiflora) - Parnassius smintheus - male Pontia? - Parnassius clodius Parnassius smintheus maximus - Parnassius smintheus - male Parnassius smintheus Clodius Parnassian - Parnassius clodius Rocky Mountain Parnassian, Parnassius smintheus - Parnassius smintheus Parnassius smintheus - male
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Papilionidae (Swallowtails, Parnassians)
Subfamily Parnassiinae
Tribe Parnassiini (Apollos or Parnassians)
Genus Parnassius
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
First described in 1804 or 1805 by Pierre André Latreille.
Parnassius Latreille, [1804]. Type species: Papilio apollo Linnaeus
Doritis Fabricius, 1807. Type species: Papilio apollo Linnaeus
Parnassis Hübner, [1819] (or missp. or emend.?). Type species: Papilio apollo Linnaeus
Therius Billberg, 1820. Type species: Papilio apollo Linnaeus
Tadumia Moore, 1902. Type species: Papilio acco Gray
Kailasius Moore, 1902. Type species: Parnassius charltonius Gray
Koramius Moore, 1902. Type species: Parnassius delphius Eversmann
Lingamius Bryk, 1935. Type species: Parnassius hardwickii Gray
Eukoramius Bryk, 1935. Type species: Parnassius imperator Oberthür
Driopa Korshunov, 1988. Type species: Parnassius mnemosyne Linnaeus
Erythrodriopa Korshunov, 1988. Type species: Parnassius ariadne Lederer
Sachaia Korshunov, 1988. Type species: Parnassius tenedius Eversmann
Quinhaicus Korshunov, 1990. Type species: Parnassius szechenyii Frivaldszky
Kreizbergius Korshunov, 1990. Type species: Parnassius simo G. Gray
Eversmanniodriopa Korb, 2005. Type species: Parnassius eversmanni Ménétriés
This genus has had an inordinate number of generic segregates proposed, some of which are considered by most authors to represent subgenera. Our North American species are usually treated as belonging to the subgenera Parnassius [including P. phoebus, behrii & smintheus] and Driopa [including Parnassius eversmanni & clodius].
Explanation of Names
Parnassius comes for Greek Parnassios (Παρνασσiota;ος)- "Parnassian", after a mountain associated with Apollo in Greek mythology. Latreille created the genus for a species until then called Papilio apollo, so the reference to Apollo makes sense. In fact, many of the names chosen for new species and subspecies in this genus have kept up this Apollo/Mount Olympus theme
The number of species recognized within Parnassius varies widely from author to author, with conservative treatments allowing for around 20 or 30, and more liberal treatments recognizing as many as 50 or 60 species.
Butterflies of America lists 5 species in our area:
eversmanni Ménétriés, 1850
clodius Ménétriés, 1855
phoebus (Fabricius, 1793)
behrii W. H. Edwards, 1870
smintheus E. Doubleday, 1847
The last three replace one another geographically, are closely similar, closely related, and are treated by many authors as belonging to the single wide-ranging Palearctic species Parnassius phoebus.
The first two are also closely related, replacing one another geographically.
Mountains of the Holarctic region (Eurasia and North America), primarily in northern and high elevation climates with cool summers and long cold winters.
Adults visit flowers and take nectar. Larvae feed primarily on plants in the families Fumariaceae or Crassulaceae.
The females of Parnassius have a "sphragis" that is present on the lower side of the end of the abdomen after mating. It is formed from a hard waxy secretion made by the male during mating and functions to prevent other males from mating with the female afterwards. See illustrations in Ehrlich & Ehrlich 'How to Know the Butterflies' on page 32.
Internet References
Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière des crustacés et des insectes, v.14, p.110    Latreille's original description of the genus (in French).