Skip to content

Beautiful Cleopatra

Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) male
Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) male

The Cleopatra is not a butterfly we see in the UK although a few individuals have occasionally appeared in southern England, perhaps as a result of hitch-hiking on a passing ship! (1) It is not markedly different from the Brimstone until the male opens his wings during flight and reveals beautiful orange patches on the yellow fore-wings. These butterflies do not bask with their wings open, so one needs to photograph it in flight to catch the lovely orange discal colours. I always seem to underestimate the necessary shutter speed; the 1/1,600th of a second in the following photograph was too slow! But on the other hand, perhaps the slight blurring suggests movement?! I love the way the butterfly starts to unfurl its proboscis before it arrives at the flower. They demonstrate remarkable dexterity – if that is the right word – in using their proboscis.

Cleopatra butterfly (Gonepteryx cleopatra) male in flight
Cleopatra butterfly (Gonepteryx cleopatra) male in flight

The Cleopatra butterfly is found throughout southern Europe and across all of Spain, from north to south. There are a number of subspecies. These photographs were taken in the village of Pola, in Somiedo National Park, Asturias, Spain. This is a location where minimum temperatures fall to zero (0 deg C) in the winter. The butterflies were however, enjoying the evening sunshine in August of this year, nectaring on these flowers.

cleopatra-gonepteryx-cleopatra-male-4

The uppersides of the male wings, particularly the fore-wings, of this species strongly reflect light in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum. (2)  Unlike us, butterflies can see UV light and males often use it to show off to females or to discourage would be rivals.  The wings of these butterflies also contain pterin pigments – xanthopterin and erythropterin – which create the bright wing colours. There are also cover scales on the wings, which create structural colours by back-scattering the incident light when it hits a series of microscopic ridges – called nanostructures – on the scales. (3) There is an awful lot more to this structural colour story than I have alluded to here, but it certainly makes for a lovely butterfly.

References

  1. http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=cleopatra
  2. Wilts, B. D., Pirih, P., & Stavenga, D. G. (2011). Spectral reflectance properties of iridescent pierid butterfly wings. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 197(6), 693-702.
  3. Wijnen, B., Leertouwer, H. L., & Stavenga, D. G. (2007). Colors and pterin pigmentation of pierid butterfly wings. Journal of insect physiology, 53(12), 1206-1217.

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

2 thoughts on “Beautiful Cleopatra Leave a comment

Leave a Reply to SAN_jeetCancel Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

spineless

Research blog of Renee Rossini

Notes on a Spanish Valley

Award-winning blog - Living in rural Andalucia

The Art of Blogging

For bloggers who aspire to inspire

walter sanford's photoblog

Showcasing some of my digital photography and videography.

Katatrepsis

Science, skepticism and dragonflies

Paths Unwritten

Lost Cities. Forgotten Spaces. Curious Places.

Q13 FOX News

Seattle and Western Washington's source for breaking news, weather, and sports. Home of Washington’s Most Wanted and the Seattle Seahawks.

Spanish Linguist

a linguist writes about Spanish

Ray Cannon's nature notes

Every picture tells a story

Too Lazy To Weed

The not so ordinary wildlife of an ordinary (but scruffy) garden

Nature etc.

Books, birds and tales from the wild

Juha Lappalainen photography

The way I see the world around me...

Wandering with Butterflies

and other Lepidoptera

Andrew Szopa-Comley

Exploring the natural world.

Ewa Ludwiczak

Watercolour Painting and Illustration

%d bloggers like this: