Subject: Cretan Festoon butterflies
Geographic location of the bug: Plakias, Crete
Time: 05:08 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: hi there!. You have published some of my pictures before, so I thought you might like these shots I got the past week of male and female Cretan Festoons, Zerynthia cretica at the cliffs near Plakias in Crete. I also have a picture of the weird-looking food plant, Aristolochia cretica, with very strange flowers.
How you want your letter signed: Butterfly twitcher
Dear Butterfly twitcher,
We were not familiar with the common name Festoon. To our eyes, these are what we have always known as Apollo Butterflies or Parnassians. Upon doing some research on RawBirds.com, we learned that the Cretan Festoon, Zerynthia cretica, is “an Old World swallowtail butterfly in the family Papilionidae which is in the genus Allancastria. This endemic species is found only on the Greek island of Crete but some authorities consider it to be a subspecies of the Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisyi) and give it the scientific name (Zerynthia cerisyi cretica). The flight period is from mid-March to June. After the egg laying stage, the caterpillars hatch out to feed on the endemic Cretan Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia cretensis). They then overwinter as a pupae and in mid to late spring emerge as butterflies.” Additional images can be found on Red List and on Euro Butterflies it states: “Formerly considered as a subspecies of the eastern festoon Z. cerisy it is now more often considered as a species. The two species are clearly very similar. Being geographically isolated on Crete it’s not surprising that differences appear, even to the extent of diverging into two species. It’s not the only endemic on the island.” Additional information includes: “Habitat & Behaviour: Grassy scrubland and open woodland. More active in the morning, being much harder to find in the afternoon. It flies unhurriedly up and down slopes, frequently stopping for nectar and to rest on bushes, grasses and the ground. Easily spotted at the roadside while driving through suitable habitat. I also found one flying over the beach and out to see some 20 or 30m before it turned back to land.” Thanks so much for sending in your awesome images as well as an image of the endemic food plant, the Cretan Dutchman’s Pipes