Parnassius clodius
Clodius Parnassian

Family: Papilionidae
Family Description:
Alternate Common Name:
American Apollo.
Caterpillar: The caterpillar is generally black, covered with short black hair, and marked with a row of orange or yellow spots along the bottom of each side. Caterpillars from high altitude may be grayish brown to grayish pink, shaded with yellow and marked with black. The black, spotted form is believed to mimic a poisonous centipede while the high altitude form is colored to camouflage with its environment. Both strategies provide protection from predators.
Adult: The butterfly is fairly large, with a wingspan of 2 to 3 inches. It has a black body and black antennae. The upperside of the wings is white to creamy white. The forewing has three dark gray to black bars on the leading edge; the outer edge and tip are marked with varying amounts and shades of gray, in striated bars or checks. Portions of the forewing may appear transparent. The hindwing is mostly white, may be lightly shaded with gray stripes or checks, and marked with two red (rarely orange, yellow, or black) spots and/or a red bar. The underside of the wings is similarly marked. Females, if they have mated, have a white pouch (called a sphragis) at the tip of the abdomen. Placed there by the male, it contains the sperm and important nutrients and prevents the female from mating again.

This species ranges from the western coast of British Columbia south through the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. It extends south into California and east to western Montana and Wyoming and northern Utah. In Idaho, it is found throughout much of the state.

It can be found in open woodlands, alpine meadows, forest edges, and in moist forests.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed at night on species of the bleeding-heart family (Fumariaceae, Dicentra spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

There is one generation of caterpillars each summer. Butterflies have two tiny hooks on the surface of the forewing which provide assistance when emerging from the silk cocoon. Eggs overwinter and the caterpillars emerge in the spring. At high elevations, the caterpillars may overwinter as well, thus requiring two years to fully develop. Adults generally fly from May through July. Butterflies exhibit a strong, high flight pattern. Only three species of Parnassians occur in North America, two of which occur in Idaho.

Males actively patrol in search of receptive females. After mating, the male attaches a waxy secretion (the sphragis) to the tip of the female’s abdomen, to prevent her from mating again. Females lay eggs on or near host plants.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.