Brief Summary


The life history of this species has been discussed and illustrated by Higgins (1975), Acquier (1981), Pamperis 1997 (Greece), and Hesselbarth et al. (1995). Hemming (1967) gave a detailed explanation on the nomenclatorial history of Z. polyxena and how this name was finally established as the valid name. Genitalia are illustrated by Higgins (1975). Coutsis (1989) pointed out variation in valvae among some European populations. Sijaric (1989) studied wing pattern variability within populations in Yugoslavia, and Lux (1990) conducted a similar study on variation within a single subspecies, Z. polyxena creusa, in France. Hesselbarth et al. (1995) have provided a historical summary of research on Z. polyxena.


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Comprehensive Description

Larval Food Plant

Several species of Aristolochia are recorded as the larval food plant of Z. polyxena, including A. pallida, A. pontica, A. pistolochia, A. rotunda, A. clematitis, and A. sicula (Bryk, 1934; Higgins and Riley, 1970; Ackery, 1975; Acquier, 1981; Hesslebarth et al., 1995), as well as A. longa (Carbonell, personal observation).


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Geographical Variation

Thirty-one subspecies are listed by Nardelli and Hirschfeld (2002) and appear chronologically below. Most of these names, however, represent populations that are morphologically very similar and demonstrate great local variation. At least a dozen subspecies have been described from Italy alone, while only 4 or 5 of them at best represent populations that can be considered subspecifically distinct entities. All synonymy and type localities for subspecies listed below are after Nardelli and Hirschfeld, 2002.

  1. Z. polyxena polyxena (Denis and Schiffermüller, 1775) (Type locality: "Wien").
  2. Z. polyxena cassandra (Geyer, 1828) (Type locality: France, Alpes Maritimes) (= creusa Meigen, 1829; Type locality: Central Italy).
  3. Z. polyxena demnosia Freyer, 1833 (Type locality: Yugoslavia, Dalmatia, Trieste, Fiume).
  4. Z. polyxena polymnia Millière, 1880 (Type locality: Greece, Euboea) (= thusnelda Fruhstorfer, 1908; Type locality: Greece, Thessalia).
  5. Z. polyxena latiaris Stichel, 1907 (Type locality: Italy, Lazio).
  6. Z. polyxena gracilis Schultz, 1908 (Type locality: Turkey, Bitinia, Bursa) (= macedonia Eisner, 1974; Type locality: Macedonia, Skopje).
  7. Z. polyxena reverdinii Fruhstorfer, 1908 (Type locality: Italy, Liguria, Rapllo).
  8. Z. polyxena thesto Fruhstorfer, 1908 (Type locality: Russia, Saratow).
  9. Z. polyxena latevittata Verity, 1919 (Type locality: Sicily) (= vipsania Hemming, 1941; Type locality: Sicily).
  10. Z. polyxena nemorensis Verity, 1919 (Type locality: Italy, Toscana, Forte dei Martini).
  11. Z. polyxena albanica Riemel, 1927 (Type locality: Albania, Tirana).
  12. Z. polyxena aemiliae Rocci, 1929 (Type locality: Italy, Emilia Romagna).
  13. Z. polyxena padana Rocci, 1929 (Type locality: unknown).
  14. Z. polyxena taygetana Rosen, 1929 (Type locality: Greece, Taygetos).
  15. Z. polyxena linnea (Bryk, 1932) (Type locality: Italy, Elba).
  16. Z. polyxena petrii (Bryk, 1932) (Type locality: Russia, Cherson, Berislav).
  17. Z. polyxena cassandra-clara Verity, 1947 (Type locality: Croatia, Zagabria).
  18. Z. polyxena microcreusa Verity, 1947 (Type locality: France, Roquebrune).
  19. Z. polyxena deminuta Verity, 1947 (Type locality: France, Nice, St. Bernabè).
  20. Z. polyxena tristis de Lattin, 1950 (Type locality: Turkey, Aydos Dagi).
  21. Z. polyxena bryki Eisner, 1954 (Type locality: border of Montenegro and Herzegovina).
  22. Z. polyxena silana Storace, 1962 (Type locality: Italy, Calabria, Sila Piccola).
  23. Z. polyxena bosniensis Eisner, 1974 (Type locality: Bosnia, Dol. Tuzla).
  24. Z. polyxena idaensis Eisner, 1974 (Type locality: Crete).
  25. Z. polyxena nigra Sijaric, 1989 (Type locality: Bosnia-Hercegowina, Sarajevo).
  26. Z. polyxena sontae Sijaric, 1989 (Type locality: Serbia, Backa).
  27. Z. polyxena carmenae Sabariego and Martinez, 1991 (Type locality: Kalofer, Bulgaria).
  28. Z. polyxena decastroi Sala and Bollino, 1992 (Type locality: Italy, Prealpi Venete) (= aegidii Nardelli, 1993; Type locality: Italy, Prealpi Venete).
  29. Z. polyxena michaelis Nardelli, 1993 (Type locality: Italy, Apulia).
  30. Z. polyxena patrizii Nardelli, 1993 (Type locality: Italy, Calabria, Costa Ionica).
  31. Z. polyxena caucasiae Nardelli and Hirschfeld, 2002 (Type locality: Black Sea, Sothsi).


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Geographical Distribution

This species has a wide distribution in Europe. It is recorded from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Italy, Switzerland (?), Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania (?), Bulgaria, and Greece (Higgins and Riley, 1970). Its range also extends into the western Caucasus, Turkey, south Urals, Kazakhstan, and east to southwest Russia (Lower Volga region) (Kudrna, 2002).


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General Ecology

Habitat and Ecology

The caterpillars of the Southern Festoon live on various birthworts, such as Aristolochia clematitis, Aristolochia rotunda, Aristolochia pallida and Aristolochia pistolochia. Because their foodplants grow in different habitats and the caterpillars also have different foodplants in different areas, this spring butterfly can be found in quite different habitats. In the western part of its range, it can be seen in open places along rivers with the foodplant Aristolochia rotunda. In the mountains, the butterflies can be seen in dry, sunny, rocky places, where Aristolochia pallida and Aristolochia pistolochia grow. In the Pannonian region, the species is found on sites with ruderal vegetation, e.g. along the Danube, but also in vineyards on sunny slopes, where Aristolochia clematitis grows as a weed. In Greece, the butterfly occurs in damp areas, as well as on dry slopes, according to the species of birthwort used as foodplant. The eggs are laid singly or in small groups on the underside of the leaves, where the caterpillars are usually also found. The caterpillars have a striking appearance. Mostly beige with black spots, they have some orange tubercles on each segment, each ending in a black, spiny tuft. The Southern Festoon has one generation a year and hibernates as pupa. Habitats: dry calcareous grasslands and steppes (14%), humid grasslands and tall herb communities (12%), mesophile grasslands (12%), heath and scrub (9%), dry siliceous grasslands (7%), sclerophyllous scrub (7%), alluvial and very wet forests and brush (7%).

  • Batáry P, Örvössy N, Kőrösi Á, Peregovits L (2008) Egg Distribution of the Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena) (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae). Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 54: 401-410.
  • Dapporto L (2010) Speciation in Mediterranean refugia and post-glacial expansion of Zerynthia polyxena (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 48: 229-237. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0469.2009.00550.x
  • Höttinger H (2003) Neue Erkenntnisse zur Verbreitung, Ökologie und Gefährdung des Osterluzeifalters Zerynthia polyxena (Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775) in Österreich mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Burgenlandes (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Beiträge zur Entomofaunistik 4: 89-105.
  • Örvössy N, Kőrösi A, Vozár A, Batáry P, Peregovits L (2005) Microhabitat preference of the Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena). In: Kühn E, Feldmann R, Thomas JA, Settele J (Eds) Studies on the ecology and conservation of butterflies in Europe Vol 1: General concepts and case studies. Pensoft, Sofia.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Zerynthia polyxena

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.

There are 9 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Zerynthia polyxena

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 21
Specimens with Barcodes: 21
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Zerynthia polyxena

The Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena) is a striking butterfly belonging to the Papilionidae family of butterflies. Its flight time is from April to June in a single brood.


The Southern Festoon (Z. polyxena) can reach a wingspan of 60–80 mm. The females have slightly longer wings, usually lighter colored than males. The basic color of the wings is yellow, but they have a complicated pattern of several black bands and spots. On the edges of the hindwings they have a series of blue and red warning spots to deter potential predators. The body is dark brown and bears red patches on the sides of the abdomen.

This butterfly can be confused only with the Spanish Festoon (Z. rumina). The differences are in the presence of blue on the hind wings of Z. polyxena and the relatively lower amount of red on its forewings as compared to Z. rumina.

The caterpillars of Z. polyxena are up to 35 millimeters long. They are initially black, then they are yellowish with six rows of fleshy orange and black spikes all over the body. They feed on birthworts (Aristolochia sp.), mainly (Aristolochia clematitis and Aristolochia rotunda). The special food of the larvae provides the toxic substances which then also go to the adults, making them inedible.


The adults are active for no more than 3 weeks. The females lay their eggs singly or in small groups at the bottom of the host plants. The eggs are spherical and whitish at first, bluish-colored before hatching. The young caterpillars feed at first on flowers and young shoots, while after the second moult they feed on leaves. The pupae stay linked to a support by a silk belt for wintering and the new adults hatch the next spring.


Zerynthia polyxena is widespread in the middle and southern Europe (southeastern France, Italy, Slovakia and Greece) covering all the Balkans and reaching the south of Kazakhstan and the Urals. Although they are widespread they occur only locally.[2][3]


Habitat of Z. polyxena, Regional Park of Capanne di Marcarolo (Piedmont), abt. 900 m. a.s.l.

These butterflies can be found in warm, sunny and open places such as vineyards, river banks, wetlands, cultivated areas, brushy places, wasteland, rocky cliffs and karst terrains, at an elevation of about 1,700 meters above sea level, but usually under 900 meters.




polyxena Denis and Schiffermuller 1775 ( hypermnestra Scopoli, 1763)

hypsiphyle Fabricus, 1777

hypsipyle Schultzen, 1776

Bricuox (1975) has all South France populations under creusa Meigen described from Italy, with four sub-races that might or might not be comparable to local (ecological) races or forms:- creusa trans cassandra (Gard): Creüsa (Nice): microcreusa (Roquebrune) thus following the example set by Verity. The need for a strict revision is much in evidence.


(a) cassandra Hubner and Geyer, 1823-3 (1828) South France, North Italy.


ochracea Staudinger, 1861

vitrina Rothschild, 1918

inornata Pionneau

bella Neuburger

reducta Železný, 1915

quincunx Eisner

microcreusa Verity, 1947

deminuta Verity, 1947

(b) padana Rocci, 1929 (North Italy: Piedmont, Lombardy, Turin)

(c) aemiliae Rocci, 1929 (North Italy; Lombardy: Massa Lombarda, Modena, Livorno)

(d) reverdini Fruhstorfer, 1908 (West and North Italy: Liguria)

(e) nemorensis Verity, 1919 (Italy:Toscana, Firenze)

(f) linnea Bryk, 1932 (Elba)

(g) creusa Meigen, 1829 (Central Italy: Ventimiglia (Verity, 1950), cf. Eisner, 1974!)

(h) latiaris Stichel, 1907 (south Italy: Calabria, Rome, Monti Albani)

(i) vipsania Hemming, 1941 (:latevittata Verity, 1919, a secondary homonym of latevittata Schultz, 1908: creusaMann, nec Meigen, Dahl MS: polymnia Ragusa, 1906, (Sicily)

(j) polyxena Denis and Schiffermuller, 1775 ( cassandra Menetries (Austria, Hungary, Roumania)

punctata Schultz, 1908

marpha Schultz, 1908

rubra Hoffmann, 1916

bella Neuburger, 1903

bipunctata Cosmovici, 1892

meridionalis Hoffmann, 1916

tripunctata Zelezny, 1916

nora Schultz, 1908 (kreusa Tomala)

muelleri Bryk, 1921 (mulleri Bryk, recte muelleri)

springeri Ronnicke, 1906

reducta Zelezny, 1915

nigromaculata Zelezny, 1915

unimaculata Zelezny, 1915

demaculata Schultz, 1908

confluens Schultz, 1908

lateviltata Schultz, 1908

fasciata Begrer, 1919

skalae Zelezny, 1917

derubescens Zullich, 1928

alba Esper, 1805

subalba Schultz, 1908

rufescens Oberthur, 1879

meta Meigen

ochracea Staudinger, 1861

cellopura Eisner

basinigra Eisner

quincunx Eisner

divisa Schultz, 1908

ornata Eisner

vitrina Rothschild

irregularis Holland

(k) petrii Bryk (South Ukrainskaja: Cherson, Kiev, lower Juzinyi Bug, Krim)

(l) thesto Fruhstorfer, 1908 (South-West U.S.S.R.: lower Volga, Saratow, lower Don

rufescens Oberthur, 1879

muelleri Bryk, 1991

cellopura Eisner

(m) demnosia Freyer, 1833 (Dahl MS) ( albanica Riemel, thusnelda Schultz) (= ssp. macedonia Eisner, 1974 (Macedonia, Thessalia, Dalmatia Albania, )

chrysocoma Niepelt

quincunx Eisner

vitrina Rothschild

ochracea Staudinger, 1861

(n) bryki Eisner, 1954 (Montenegro, Herzegovina border)

(o) bosniensis Eisner, 1974 (Bosnia)

ochracea Staudinger, 1861

reducta Zelzny, 1915

(p) polymnia Milliere, 1880 (Greece: Euboea)

(q) taygetana von Rosen, 1929 (Greece: Taygetus, Peleponesos)

(r) gracilis Schultz, 1908 (North-east Turkey: Brusa, Karagja Dagh)

(s) idaensis Eisner, 1974 (Crete)

rumina Linne, 1758

(a) australis Esper, 1780 ( medesicaste Hoffmannsegg) (South France: Provence - East Pyrenees)


alicea Neuburger, 1903

paucipunctata Neuburger

tristis Verity

divisa Schultez

hartmanni Staudfuss, 1896

unipunctata Eisner, 1954

minusculus Eisner

vitrina Rothschild sensu Eisner

aperta Eisner, 1954

quincunx Eisner

honnerathii Boisduval, 1832

albescens Eisner

binaria Eisner

(b) castiliana Ruhl, 1892 (transcastilia Mon) (Central Spain: Castilia, Albarracín)


derubescens Schultz

honnorathii Boisduval, 1832 (henrietta Timmins)

tristis Verity, 1906

semitristis de Sagarra, 1930

ornatissima Blachier, 1908

nigricans Holland

alicea Neuburger, 1903

(c) catalonica de Sagarra 1930 (Spain: Catalonia)

semitristis de Sagarra, 1930

(d) petheri Romei, 1927 (South Spain: Sierra Nevada)

(e) minima Gerhardinger, 1951 Spain: Toledo)

(g) cantabrica Gomez-Bustille (Spain: Cantabrica)


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