Phoebus Parnassian (Parnassius phoebus) (Fabricius, 1793)

Diagnosis: This parnassian, like the Rocky Mountain Parnassian, has banded antennae and contrasting black spots on the leading edge of the forewing. The hairlike scales covering the body are pale grey; those on the head and the front legs are black and white. In males the forewing ground colour is chalky white with a solid band of pale grey shading along the outer margin. Wingspan: 45 to 58 mm.

Subspecies: There are five subspecies of Parnassius phoebus in Asia, including the nominate subspecies. In North America subspecies golovinus occurs in western Alaska and subspeciesapricatus occurs from central Alaska to western Yukon.

Range: This species occurs across Asia from the Altai Mountains and northern Urals eastward to western Yukon. In Canada it occurs in the Ogilvie Mountains, and at high elevations, above 1800 metres, in the St. Elias Mountains.

Similar Species: This species is very similar to the Rocky Mountain Parnassian (P. smintheus), which occurs from southern Yukon southward. In smintheus the body hairs are pale yellow; those on the head include tufts of pale yellow scales. Males of smintheus have creamy white wings with a very slight yellow tone and a series of white wedges on the wing margin between the veins, so that the dark marginal band appears as a wavy grey line. Females are variable but those from Yukon (ssp. yukonensis) generally have red spots on the inner margin of the hindwing. In Yukon and northern British Columbia smintheus occurs in dry-steppe habitat, whereas phoebus occurs at higher elevations in alpine meadows above treeline. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva feeds on stonecrop (Sedum ssp., Crassulaceae), especially Roseroot (Sedum rosea), a stonecrop common in wet alpine meadows.

Abundance: Fairly common in the right habitat, but it is very local.

Flight Season: Parnassius phoebus flies from early July until late August.

Habits: It is found in alpine meadows above treeline, where Sedum roseum is common.

Remarks: Our treatment of Parnassius phoebus follows a revision of the phoebus/smintheus group by Shepard et al., 1994.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.