Elizabethan butterfly

Elizabethan Butterfly (Graellsia isabelae). Isabellae, Actia isabelae, belonging to the Saturnidae family, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lepidoptera that can be seen, lives in the forests of its nutritional plants : black pine (Pinus nigra) and white pine (Pinus sylvestris) from Europe .


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  • 1 Habitat
  • 2 Distribution
  • 3 Features
  • 4 Current situation
    • 1 Threats
  • 5 Conservation actions
  • 6 Sources


Medium and high mountain species , which lives in the forests of its nutritional plants: black pine (Pinus nigra) and sessile pine (Pinus sylvestris). In the Valencian Community these types of forests are located fundamentally above 1,000 m. altitude, in the NW of the province of Valencia and the W and NW of that of Castellón .


Endemism of the central and eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula , with isolated populations in the Mediterranean part of France .

It is distributed through various subspecies. The specimens from the Valencian Community are attributed to subsp. isabelae, which presents a discontinuous distribution through the high peaks of the central and southern Iberian System.


Considered as the most beautiful butterfly in Europe, this large species has wings of greenish tones, with very marked dark veins, and ocelli with yellowish and bluish reflections, both on the upper and lower wings; the latter also extend into long appendages or tails.

Males have wide feathery antennae, which contrast with those of females, much finer. The larvae, with dominant greenish tones, with stripes and spots where white and brown alternate, have long hairy appendages, and feed on the leaves and tender stems of various species of high mountain pine.

The caterpillar feeds on leaves of white pine (Pinus sylvestris) and black pine (Pinus nigra ssp. Salzmanii) and perhaps also those of mountain black pine (Pinus uncinata) in Pyrenean regions. The adult flies in spring.

With its wings spread it measures 8 to 9 cm; It is therefore also one of the largest butterflies in Europe . Its body is thick and hirsuto, of brown color.

The wings are bluish green, edged and veins of reddish ocher and with a magnificent ocello in each one of them. The hind wings are elongated in a whimsical tail, longer in males than in females.

Males are also distinguished by their feathery antennae to detect sexually attractive pheromones emitted by females, even being at a very low, homeopathic concentration in the air. Females, on the other hand, have simple antennas.

Current situation

The species is suspected to be in progression, although it cannot be determined if the recent increase in its location is due to its natural expansion, or to the fact that its search and study has intensified in recent years.


  • The main factor threatening the species is habitat destruction, through any form of deforestation.
  • It is also considered threatened by its collection for collecting, a factor that seems to have been substantially reduced after its protection.
  • The spring phytosanitary treatment of pine forests with anti-quitizers is often cited as a third transcendent factor to combat various pests such as the processionary, affecting the larvae; the threat of this factor is very residual, given the particular biological cycle of the species the larvae do not develop in spring .

Conservation actions

  • A detailed monitoring of their populations in the Valencian Community between 1998-99 and 2001-02 has been addressed.
  • Breeding in captivity for experimental purposes has been addressed, although population reinforcement of the species does not seem necessary.
  • Regular forest reforestation with indigenous species of mountain pines ensure the survival of the species.


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