Bunches of butterflies

Aggregation of mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix) and some Blues
Aggregation of mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix) and some Blues

When visiting Doi Chiang Dao – a place I have written about before (1) – last November (2015), I came across some interesting aggregations of butterflies; composed mainly of Blues (lycaenids) and Yellows (pierids). I may have been a little bit late, as October is said to be the best month to see butterflies in this area, but there were still large numbers of them around.

Aggregation of mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix)
Aggregation of mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix)

The place with good aggregations of butterflies is at the army camp at the entrance to Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary (2), where most of the photographs shown here were taken.

View of Doi Chiang Dao (not the summit) on the way to the entrance to the park
View of Doi Chiang Dao (not the summit) on the way to the entrance to the sanctuary

The soldiers place fruit and dead fish to attract the butterflies; fermented fish mixed with fermented pineapple extract was found by researchers to attract the most species (3).

Hill or Changeable Grass Yellows, Zebra and Ciliate Blues
Hill or Changeable Grass Yellows, Zebra and Ciliate Blues

I came across a Common nawab (Polyura athamas) feeding on the dead fish (below). It might be common, but it is, like all nawab butterflies – species in the genus Polyura – exquisitely marked and very attractive. Presumably, the patterns and colours have a more practical purpose than to satisfy our aesthetic yearnings!

Common nawab (Polyura athamas) on fish
Common nawab (Polyura athamas) on fish

The Yellows appeared to be mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix), also called Hill Grass Yellows. There were also other yellow pierid species present in smaller numbers, including Yellow Orange Tips (Ixias pyrene), and probably others. Common and Three-spot Grass Yellows all look very similar, at least to my untrained – in pierid taxonomy that is – eyes!

Aggregation of mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix) and some Blues
Aggregation of mainly Changeable Grass Yellows (Eurema simulatrix) and some Blues

There were also lots of small, black-and-white butterflies – called Pierrots – present, including: Straight, Elbowed and Banded Blue Pierrots (Caleta roxus, Caleta elna and Discolampa ethion, respectively).

Straight and Banded Blue Pierrots
Straight and Banded Blue Pierrots

There are various subspecies of these widely distributed butterflies which I do not feel competent to identify, other than by location.

Straight Pierrots (Caleta roxus)
Straight Pierrots (Caleta roxus)

There were also fairly large numbers of Zebra Blues (Leptotes plinius), Common Ciliate Blues (Anthene emolus) and Plain Hedge Blues (Celastrina lavendularis). There were probably other species, including The Bi-spot Royal (Ancema ctesia ctesia), present amongst the aggregations; remarkably at least 426 species of lycaenids have been recorded in Thailand.

Zebra and Plain Hedge Blues
Zebra and Plain Hedge Blues
The Plain Hedge Blue, Celastrina lavendularis
The Plain Hedge Blue, Celastrina lavendularis
Common Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus)
Common Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus)
The Bi-spot Royal (Ancema ctesia)
The Bi-spot Royal (Ancema ctesia)

Like the Yellows, all of these Blues and Pierrots like puddling, or mud puddling: sucking up salts on moist ground or for example, from dung, carrion or bird droppings.

Straight, Elbowed and Banded Blue Pierrots
Straight, Elbowed and Banded Blue Pierrots

These aggregations of puddling butterflies usually consist largely of males, which are thought to be replenishing their sodium-reserves, lost (or soon to be lost) in the process of delivering a spermatophore to females during mating. Or more prosaically, it may be to enable the males to produce a ‘nuptial gift’ in the form of sodium, for the females (4). Absorbing nitrogen-rich resources will also give the males added “oomph” or, in other words, increase their reproductive success (5).

Blues and Yellows puddling away!
Blues and Yellows puddling away!

If this blog has whetted your appetite and you want to see some better, truly amazing macro photographs of butterflies from this location, then I recommend this website (6), which shows the beautiful photographic work of Antonio Giudici (7). I can only aspire to the quality of his work, but I have ordered a better macro lens for my next visit! I think the last word should be with the mountain (below).

Doi (=mountain) Chiang Dao
Doi (=mountain) Chiang Dao

References

  1. https://rcannon992.com/2014/04/30/chiang-dao-mountain/
  2. http://peacockroyal.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/butterflies-do-chiang-dao-thailand-part.html
  3. Lapkratok, Sukanya, and Pongthep Suwanwaree. “Bait Selection of Butterflies at Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex World Heritage, Thailand.” Advanced Materials Research. Vol. 1030. 2014.
  4. Molleman, Freerk, et al. “Is male puddling behaviour of tropical butterflies targeted at sodium for nuptial gifts or activity?.” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 86.3 (2005): 345-361.
  5. Beck, Jan, Eva MuÈhlenberg, and Konrad Fiedler. “Mud-puddling behavior in tropical butterflies: in search of proteins or minerals?.” Oecologia 119.1 (1999): 140-148.
  6. http://www.butterflycircle.com/showthread.php?14873-Chiang-Dao-(Northern-Thailand)-March-2015/page2
  7. https://www.flickr.com/photos/angiud/

3 thoughts on “Bunches of butterflies

  1. Pingback: Bunches of butterflies | Ray Cannon's nature notes

  2. mark cocker

    Really nice piece Ray and inspired me to follow through to the other website, but your piece was inspiration enough. I remember once retreating from an aborted trek in the eastern Pontic Alps in Turkey after a murderous storm demolished our tents. The following dawn we came upon hundreds of thousands of fritillaries as we descended the valley. It was truly remarkable and all were puddling. wonderful.

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