|scientific name Parnassius smintheus |
common name Rocky Mountain Parnassian
Well-drained, sparsely vegetated mountain meadows.
One brood annually, with peak flight activity between early July to late August.
The only other parnassian in Alberta is Clodius, known from Waterton Lakes N.P. The Rocky Mountain Parnassian has black and white banded antennae, not solid black as in clodius, and usually has some red markings on the forewing; these are never present in clodius. Females of smintheus are more heavily marked with black scales and have fewer scales overall than males, giving them a darker appearance. Subspecies smintheus occurs in Alberta; this species was described from Rock Lake near Jasper.
The egg is creamy white in colour, rounded and slightly flattened on the top and bottom, and has a granulated surface. First instar larvae are black and covered in short hairs, and develop two dorsal rows of bright yellow spots as they mature (Guppy & Shepard 2001). The brown pupae are formed within a weakly constructed cocoon among plant litter or rocks on the ground (Layberry et al. 1998). The fully-developed larva overwinters in the egg. Adult males patrol meadows in search of females, and deposit a waxy, scoop-shaped structure, known as a sphragis, on the female's abdomen tip upon mating; this prevents the female from mating with subsequent males (Layberry et al. 1998). Female parnassians do not lay their eggs directly on the larval foodplant, and hatching larvae must find these upon hatching (Scott 1986). Despite this seemingly random oviposition behaviour, females are able to assess meadow quality, since they lay more eggs in good-quality meadows (Fownes & Roland 2002). Similarly, males are also able to assess meadow quality in terms of nectar flower abundance, mating opportunities and larval foodplant abundance; Matter and Roland (2002) showed that immigration of males into high-quality meadows was higher than into meadows with a lower abundance of nectar, females, and larval foodplants. Most adults live for about two weeks, but can live for three weeks or more (Roland et al. 2000).
Not of concern.
The larvae of Alberta populations feed on Lance-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum), and adults take nectar at a variety of flowers, particularly composites (Asteraceae) (Bird et al. 1995).
Southern Yukon to New Mexico (Opler 1999). The population near Del Bonita, Alberta may be the only prairie population in North America (Bird et al. 1995). A disjunct population occurs in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan (Layberry et al. 1998), and this species should be watched for on the Alberta side at the western end of the Cypress Hills.
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