Butterflies of Cyprus 1998
(Records of a year’s sightings)
by Eddie John (7937)
11 Mill Lane, Bluntisham, Huntingdon, Cambs PE17 3LR
Cyprus is the third largest Mediterranean island, after Sardinia and Sicily, and is the most easterly. Close neighbours are Turkey just 40 miles to the north and Syria, 60 miles to the east, placing Cyprus on the fringes of Asia.
In October 1997 my wife and I moved to the island, where I was to establish a new company from a base at Larnaca. There was little opportunity to carry out a literature search on the butterflies of Cyprus before our departure but we were confident that given the UK’s historical links with the country, there would no difficulty in obtaining reference books locally. We were wrong. A booklet, "Nature of Cyprus", by Christos Ch. Georgiades1, lists 50 of the 51 species of butterflies found on the island but the 14 colour plates are of little assistance in identifying some of the less familiar species present. The majority, but not all, on the Cyprus list are illustrated in "Butterflies of Britain & Europe", by Tom Tolman2 and similar UK publications, but such books rarely carry any references to Cyprus. It was with some relief that I learned of Rob Parker’s3 excellent paper, "The Butterflies of Cyprus", published in the Entomologist’s Gazette following his three-season stay on the island in the 1970s. This provided a sufficiently clear description of the unfamiliar species to allow identification with confidence. In 1990, a paper by Dr Luc Manil4, prepared in collaboration with Rob Parker and others, entitled "Les Rhopalocères de Chypre", was published in Linneana Belgica. Manil’s paper (in French) updated Parker’s distribution maps with his own and other, more recent, sightings. There are also some very helpful colour and black & white plates, which further help with identification. However, Manil’s paper fails to record numerous sightings by W J Tennent5 reported in the Entomologist’s Gazette in 1985.
The purpose of this paper is to add my own, brief, observations on the 44 species found throughout an entomological year, and to extend, in some cases quite significantly, the distribution maps for many of the species. In addition, some were seen over a much longer period than indicated by Parker or Manil, so I have given the precise dates for my first and last sightings, with an indication of the frequency with which they were seen.
Initially, the duration of our stay was expected to be in the region of three years but progress was quickly made and we returned to the UK after just 14 months. The anticipation of a longer stay on the island, coupled with a more intensive workload in the earlier months, meant that sightings during this initial period were mainly confined to the immediate area in which we lived. The relevance of this becomes apparent when examining the distribution map for one of the most common species, the Eastern Dappled White (Euchloe ausonia) which was abundant locally and, it is reasonable to assume, present in similar numbers throughout the rest of the island during the peak of its flight period. However, opportunities restricted sightings of this species to just five quadrants. More effort was made to extend the coverage of the island at a later stage of our stay, but it is fair to say that early-emerging species, such as E. ausonia and Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisyi) are not as well represented in the distribution records as those having more than one brood or those on the wing later in the year.
Areas of Sightings
Nicosia remains the only divided city in the world and in order to visit the Turkish-occupied north of the island, visitors from the south must pass through a series of border control posts at the Ledra Palace crossing point. Mainly out of respect for the views of our Greek-Cypriot friends and colleagues, we elected not to do so. All our sightings were therefore concentrated in the southern part of Cyprus.
Nevertheless, to assist with recording for the "Mapping European Butterflies" (MEB) project, the large map of Cyprus shows the MEB reference localities both north and south of the ‘border’. I have also indicated the location of our village on this map, as many of our sightings were in our immediate area. Place names, in the Turkish sector, are those advised by Dr. Otakar Kudrna and may differ from those now in use. (See web site:http://home.t-online.de/home/kudrna.meb/index.htm for further information on the MEB project. This is a very well designed web site and the link to http://EuropeanButterflies.com leads to a visually stunning illustration of Zerynthia polyxena).
We lived on the outskirts of Mosphiloti, a small village to the south of Nicosia and to the west of Larnaca and roughly equidistant between the two. The area forms the eastern foothills of the extensive Troodos range. Indeed, our house was admirably situated with hills sweeping up from the rear garden to an estimated height of 500m+ above sea level. These hills were walked, almost without exception, each weekend throughout 1998. The Mephistopheles valley, running east towards the coastal town of Larnaca, helped to ‘funnel’ butterflies into our garden resulting in 28 of the 44 species recorded by us, being seen either in the garden or in a small, adjacent, hillside area, ‘claimed’ (in true Cypriot fashion!) by the house owner. This area was planted with citrus, Pistachio and Olive trees. Apart from Bougainvillaea, Stephanotis and Jasmine, there were few, cultivated, flowering plants. An attempt to encourage Buddleia to grow met with little success despite regular watering and I can only conclude that the site, in full sun, was too hostile. Lantana, which grows well on the island, is reputed to be a valuable nectar plant, but one introduced by us attracted just a single Cyprus Meadow Brown (Maniola cypricola cypricola) to our knowledge! Mature bushes of Lantana in other areas of Cyprus were similarly unproductive, though on one occasion a few Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) were seen showing a clear preference for white-flowering Lantana rather than neighbouring orange/red as might be expected.
The Influence of Climate.
The Cyprus summer is long, hot and (in 1998) surprisingly humid, even inland. Autumn, winter and spring are short and what little rainfall occurs, falls during these months. In 1998, temperatures were consistently within the range 35-42oC for a 10- week period from the end of June and we were present during what has been described by some as the hottest summer on record. During this period, butterfly activity in the immediate area was much reduced due to the extreme heat and to the almost complete absence of nectar plants. Temperatures in the higher, mountainous areas of Troodos (Mount Olympus 1951m) were lower but we confined our hill trips during this period to the more easily accessible Machairas Forest and Kionia (1420m) closer to our village. Nevertheless, even in the hills the morning temperature quickly rose above 30oC during the height of summer. Lightly wooded areas alongside stream beds (usually dry) generally yielded reasonable numbers of species and were favoured locations for Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta), Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) and the occasional Large White (Pieris brassicae) now absent from the baking lower altitudes.
In coastal regions at this time of year the most productive sites were neglected patches and those close to irrigated areas, gardens and building sites! In connection with the latter, the edges of roads and pavements, which are frequently constructed in advance of housing or commercial developments, provide cooler root conditions for plants to survive. Much of Cyprus turns yellow/brown from late May and remains so until seasonal rain in October/November brings a sudden flush of new growth. Some species aestivate or move inland to the somewhat cooler, hilly areas during the drought period, resulting in a marked reduction in butterfly numbers at lower altitudes, when compared with those on the wing during springtime.
SPECIES PRESENT ON THE ISLAND
1998 appears to have been a good year for migratory species. During his stay on the island in the 1970s, Parker notes that he failed to see either the Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) or Lang’s Short-tailed Blue (Leptotes pirithous). Perhaps conditions for these species were particularly favourable in 1998 as they were recorded on 10 days and 15 days respectively, at various sites. In addition there was a single sighting of Eastern Pale Clouded Yellow (Colias erate), a rare migrant and first recorded on Cyprus as recently as 1984 (by Hofmann) and later, by Manil in 1989. This is only the third known record for C. erate on Cyprus. However, other very rare migrants to Cyprus such as Nettle-tree Butterfly (Libythea celtis) and African Babul Blue (Azanus jesous), eluded me.
Of the Cyprus species, the most common were: Artogeia rapae, recorded on 129 days in the year, Colias crocea (93), Vanessa cardui (88), Papilio machaon syriacus (77) and Pieris brassicae (68).
My, abbreviated, notes on the various species read as follows:
1. Swallowtail (Papilio machaon syriacus)
Common at lower altitudes, especially in early summer, when Fennel is abundant and is the preferred foodplant. In the hills, Wild Carrot is a much less favoured, second-choice, foodplant. Larvae reared on Fennel will reluctantly accept Wild Carrot. Guaranteed sightings of adults at most elevations April to June. Became scarce at higher elevations during July and August but frequently seen near selected coastal areas. Plentiful near the coast in October and November, where Fennel survives close to irrigated areas and dry riverbeds. Less frequently encountered in hilly areas during the autumn due to the lack of nectar-bearing plants and the desiccation of Wild Carrot. On the wing in all weeks between 22 February and 8 November.
2. Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisyi cypria)
Opportunities to see were restricted to the eastern foothills of the Troodos range. Rarely more than two or three seen at a time but reports indicate more commonly seen in the Troodos Mountains. Dark forms occur. Very distinctive on the wing. Recorded between 4 March and 17 April.
3. Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Common during spring months. Summer generation very large in size. Disappeared from low-lying areas (and Mosphiloti) by mid-July. Found at Kionia, in shaded woodland, over three weekends in July/August then absent for some weeks until found, over a five-week period at Malia, southwest of Troodos. Except for September, recorded in all months between 7 January and 30 December.
4. Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Abundant early in the year and very common in the autumn months. Appears more tolerant of high summer temperatures than P. brassicae. Present at low altitudes in July and August although numbers are much reduced. Recorded between 5 January and 30 December. One of four species seen in all months of the year.
5. Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi augustior)
Rare. Some early records in the literature and also recorded, once, by Manil in June 1989. Recent records from the Troodos Mountains in 1994 (pers. comm. Parker), in the Prodhromos area in 1995 and also in the Adelfoi Forest in 1998 (pers. comm. Whaley), suggest that this species has been under-recorded and is likely to breed in the Troodos range. May be supplemented by occasional migration. Not seen during my stay on the island.
6. Eastern Bath White (Pontia edusa)
Tolman’s text and distribution maps indicate that Bath White (P. daplidice) is replaced in the eastern half of its range by P. edusa. I have followed his nomenclature. Common in spring and present throughout the year. Fresh specimens can, with time, be distinguished on the wing from Eastern Dappled White (Euchloe ausonia), and both have a much more purposeful flight than A. rapae. Absent from the dry, Mosphiloti hills during the height of summer, reappearing in October. The later generation is heavily marked and appears much darker (esp. females) on the wing than those seen earlier in the year. Recorded between 26 January and 13 December. Seen in all months of the year.
7. Small Bath White (Pontia chloridice)
Not seen, despite the netting of large numbers of P. edusa, which it closely resembles. Records of previous sightings are sparse and are mainly from the Troodos Mountains.
8. Eastern Dappled White (Euchloe ausonia)
See comments re P. edusa above. E. ausonia has a much shorter flight period but at peak time was more common. Fresh specimens are noticeably yellow/green in flight when compared with P. edusa. Under-represented in distribution maps. Early emerging species and recorded in all weeks between 15 February and 9 May.
9. Orange Tip (Anthocaris cardamines phoenissa)
Fairly commonly seen over the short flight period. Mostly recorded from the west of the island. Female Orange Tip easily overlooked due to presence of large numbers of E ausonia on wing at same time. Recorded between 25 February and 5 April.
10. Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea)
Sporadic sightings throughout all winter months, building to fairly large numbers in spring/early summer. Very scarce by mid-June in Mosphiloti but still on the wing at higher altitudes. One only found during August but numbers increased again in autumn, though not to the extent of the spring sightings. f. helice seen occasionally. Recorded from 10 January to 30 December. Seen in all months of the year.
11. Eastern Pale Clouded Yellow (Colias erate)
A very rare migrant. One, confirmed, sighting on 10 September at Larnaca Salt Lake and one dubious, unrecorded, sighting on November 1 (worn and distant specimen). Noticeably more yellow in flight than C. crocea – a very bright, lemon yellow. See earlier comments.
12. Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra taurica)
First appeared in mid-February though rarely seen in numbers. Most common in spring. New generation in May. Moved to higher altitude mid/end June. Often flies in well-vegetated gullies and valleys. Contrary to Parker’s observation, I found the females to be a darker shade of green than he suggests and distinguishable on the wing from P. brassicae. Recorded in all months from 21 February to 15 November.
13. Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus)
Migrant to Cyprus. First sighting in early September – a road casualty found by my wife immediately outside our offices in Larnaca! Consistent, almost weekly, sightings of individuals (two seen on just one occasion in same area) into November. Mainly found around coastal areas but one strayed into our garden 15 miles inland. Will take nectar from a wide variety of plants ranging from Fennel to cultivated garden plants. Peter Flint (pers. comm.) has provided records (18 September to 26 October) from 5 ‘new’ squares in coastal areas in the north of the island, further confirming that 1998 was special in terms of migration numbers for this species. Recorded, by me, between 7 September and 8 November.
14. Nettle-tree Butterfly (Libythea celtis)
Not seen. A very rare migrant. Not seen either by Parker, Tennent or Manil. No sightings for some decades?
15. Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius)
Two, unexpected, sightings well away from areas (Troodos Mountains, principally) where the food-plant, Arbutus andrachne, is found (A. unedo is much less common on Cyprus). Fruit was the common factor – one flew out of a citrus orchard (Aghios Theodorus, 5 June) and the other was seen circling a fig tree (Lythrodontas, 23 August).
16. Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta)
Six discrete colonies found, suggesting that L. reducta is widely distributed in the hills. Colony numbers may be quite low, as never were more than 4-6 seen in one area. Wonderfully elegant in flight and very territorial. Recorded in most weeks between 17 June and 12 September.
17. Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros)
No sightings of this extremely rare migrant. The last reported sighting appears to have been in 1918 (Parker, Manil).
18. Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Present in small numbers throughout the winter months – but sightings guaranteed. Significant build-up in spring. In mid-April, flight pattern changed, and speed increased dramatically. Many seen flying northwards with great purpose. Almost disappeared from Mosphiloti area by the end of April and there were only occasional sightings in May and June. Abundant for a short period in July then absent again after the first week of August. Reasonably common once more in autumn with obvious, overlapping, broods – some worn, others fresh. Recorded from 1 January to 27 December, in all months of the year.
19. Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Numerous sightings throughout the year but by no means a common butterfly on Cyprus. Rarely seen more than once per day. The scarcity of Nettle suggests that most sightings are migrants. Not seen between June and September though likely to have been on the wing at higher altitudes. Otherwise, the earliest sighting was 25 January and the latest, 25 December.
20. Cardinal (Argynnis pandora)
Uncommon. The higher ranges of the Troodos Mountains, (where previous records indicate seen), not visited during flight period. Two sightings: at Kionia, 18 June and again, in same area on 2 August.
21. Cyprus Grayling (Hipparchia pellucida cypriensis)
Common, gregarious species. Underside hind-wings often strongly marked, resembling Southern Grayling (H. aristaeus), which is unrecorded on Cyprus. Seeks shade during hottest months and roosts in numbers on trees. Often return to the same tree where they are so well camouflaged that they have to be viewed in profile to be seen. Always alert and easily disturbed but generally fly only a short distance to another, favoured tree. Recorded in most weeks between 2 April and 8 November.
22. Eastern Rock/Syrian Grayling (Hipparchia syriaca cypriaca)
Less common than H. pellucida cypriensis but otherwise, the above, behavioural, activities apply. Though seen quite frequently in the mountains around Kionia, they were rarely seen in the lower, Mosphiloti, hills yet common over many weeks in our garden where they roosted on trees or the house wall; always in shade. Recorded each week between 17 June and 3 October.
23. The Hermit (Chazara briseis larnacarna)
Fairly commonly sighted throughout June and July (though stated by Tolman to be absent from the Mediterranean islands, except Sicily). Females are much larger than males and sometimes have the white markings replaced by buff/orange (f. pirata). Tolerates sun but later in the afternoon favours the shade of high walls or near-vertical, rocky banks, especially bordering rough, dirt tracks in the hills. Easily disturbed. Recorded in almost all weeks between 9 May and 2 November.
24. White-banded Grayling (Pseudochazara anthelea acamanthis)
Infrequent sightings of this large, elusive species. Found at the highest levels of the Mosphiloti hills where they were difficult to approach but often returned to the same rock – an observation also noted by Parker, who also draws attention (pers. comm.) to the unusually large difference in size between the male and female of this species. NB similarity with C. briseis. Recorded sporadically between 24 May and 25 July.
25. Cyprus Meadow Brown (Maniola cypricola cypricola)
Very common and found at all altitudes. A variable species, similar to M. jurtina and often with a yellow band on underside hind-wing, resembling M. j. hispulla. In July and August, favours shady areas and is commonly found with C. briseis in the hills. A dry riverbed, where Oleander provides shade, is a frequent habitat. Recorded each week from 18 April to 25 October.
26. Oriental Meadow Brown (Hyponephele lupina cypriaca)
Less common than M. cypricola but often found in same locality. Not recorded until June 18, largely because of dominance of M. cypricola, (but likely to have been on wing a month earlier) and then seen in most weeks until 2 October.
27. Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria aegeria)
Two sightings only: in Coral Bay area, near Paphos, on 31 March and in the Troodos Mountains on 13 September. P.aegeria appears to be much more common in the western half of the island – there is only one other record (Tennent) from the southeastern half of the island, though it has been noted north of Nicosia, in the Turkish zone.
28. Large Wall Brown (Lasiommata maera orientalis)
Under-recorded by me, with four sightings only. The first near Coral Bay on 31 March and the remainder in our garden at Mosphiloti in April, May and, finally, on 15 June. On the wing earlier than indicated by Parker and Manil. L. m. orientalis is very like L. m. f. adrasta, with noticeable orange markings. N.B. Dwarf forms occur, which strongly resemble Lasiommata megera paramegaera both in size and appearance. However, L. m. paramegaera is confined to the western Mediterranean regions.
29. Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera lyssa)
Infrequent sightings. Appears to be more common in the west. (See comments above re the dwarf form of L. maera orientalis). Recorded from 22 February to 5 June, then unrecorded until a male (in good condition) was seen on 8 November.
30. African Ringlet (Ypthima asterope)
Fairly frequent literature records and recorded by Parker, Manil and Tennent (close to our home!) but I failed to find.
31. Lattice Brown (Kirinia roxelana)
Recorded by Parker in the 1970s (and again in 1998, in his hotel dining room at Prodhromos!) and by Manil but I failed to find this species. Probably more widespread in the Troodos area than in the eastern half of Cyprus.
32. Levantine Leopard (Apharitis acamas cypriaca)
Never common, but seen consistently in the Mosphiloti hills from mid-June. Frequently settles on shrubs and will allow close approach without becoming alarmed. At first glance appears almost moth-like on the wing and its erratic flight enhances this impression. Not illustrated in Tolman but identified by Rob Parker’s description that it resembles Allard's Silver-line (Cigaritis allardi). Illustrated in Manil’s paper. Infrequent past records and not seen by Manil. Nevertheless recorded by me on 15 occasions from 17 June to 2 November.
33. Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus longicauda)
Two colonies found, one near Lefkara, the other at Prodhromos in the Troodos Mountains. Lefkara specimens were seen consistently over several visits to the site in open, farmed countryside, with a few, isolated evergreen oak (Quercus alnifolia). A large, fast-flying species. Recorded between 4 July and 12 September.
34. Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
Guaranteed, daily sightings in winter months with individuals occupying defined, south-facing, territories where Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) flourishes (in flower early February). L. phlaeas appears to breed throughout the winter in the Mosphiloti hills. Four ‘territories’ were identified on 27 December and the progress of the individuals followed each weekend. On 14 February, both faded and fresh adults were found. Scarce by the end of May in the Mosphiloti area but still on the wing in more mountainous areas (Kionia) to the end of July, after which not seen again in the (by now) parched Mosphiloti countryside until fresh specimens appeared in November. Otherwise, recorded from 1 January to 27 December.
35. Lesser Fiery Copper (Lycaena thersamon)
Four colonies found, the largest at Larnaca Salt Lake where up to a dozen could be seen in an area of 50sq.m. Consistent sightings over the flight period and on the wing much later than indicated by Manil, supporting Parker’s suggestion of a third brood. Both sexes appear larger than illustrated in Tolman and later broods have substantial ‘feathery’, hairstreak-like, tails. The first brood was missed but otherwise recorded between 1 August and 2 December.
36. Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus)
Single specimens seen early in the year but large colonies may later develop at favourable sites. Wide variety of foodplant accepted – especially cultivated beans. Recorded consistently from 3 April (very worn specimen) to 21 November.
37. Lang’s Short-tailed Blue (Leptotes pirithous)
A species reinforced by migration, but still uncommon. Not seen until September, when two were caught at Kyperountou near Troodos. Regular sightings followed at sea level at the Larnaca Salt Lake (at two sites), until December. One site appeared to support a small colony as sightings were predictable, and both worn and fresh specimens were present together. Single specimen also seen at the Baths of Aphrodite in the northwest tip of the island, on 3 October. Recorded on 15 days from 13 September to 12 December.
38. Little Tiger Blue (Tarucus balkanicus)
Almost guaranteed sightings in mid-June (up to three at a time on Helichrysum). Single sighting in July, to reappear more frequently in the next two months. Majority of sightings in the Mosphiloti hills. Last seen, very unexpectedly, at the Larnaca Salt Lake in early December, suggesting a much longer flight period than proposed by Parker and Manil. Recorded regularly from 30 May to 2 December.
39. African Babul Blue (Azanus jesous)
Not seen. An extremely rare migrant to Cyprus. I am unaware of any recent records.
40. African Grass Blue (Zizeeria knysa karsandra)
Widespread, common species. Overlooked until early August until the typical habitat discovered (roadside ditches, verges, and waste-ground!) and then found with ease. Probably vastly under-recorded due to its size, dark colour and preference for unattractive habitats! The most abundant species at the Larnaca Salt Lake, where it flies with Small Desert Blue (Chilades galba), giving the impression of being present in even greater numbers. Recorded from 1 August to 12 December (again, somewhat later than previous records by Parker and Manil indicate).
41. Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Disappointingly few sightings, largely because few excursions were made to the Troodos Mountains where the species is mostly found. Seen on three occasions only and all in the same, light woodland area of Kionia. Parker describes the species as having been seen in "…delightful abundance on several occasions (notably in Cedar Valley)". Recorded between 18 June and 26 July but Manil indicates that C. argiolus may be seen from May to September.
42. Paphos Blue (Glaucopsyche paphos)
Not illustrated in Tolman but there are good photographs of set specimens in Manil’s publication. Rather similar to the Green-underside Blue (Glaucopsyche alexis) but without the green/blue hue and with larger spots on the underside fore-wing. No other, similar, species present on Cyprus so identification is straightforward. Despite the name, it is widely distributed, though under-recorded by me. Seen from 31 March to 1 May.
43. (Pseudophilotes vicrama astabene)
Very similar to Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes baton) which is not found in Cyprus. Described as "rare" by Parker and seen neither by him nor Manil. One of the earliest species to emerge. First seen on 8 March and consistently thereafter into the third week of April. By no means common, but sightings of two/three on an hour’s walk could be expected at peak of flight period. Second generation appeared in May but far less frequently seen. Quite dark on the wing and fairly easily caught. Recorded on 14 days between 8 March and 4 June.
44. Small Desert Blue (Chilades galba)
Not illustrated in Tolman but Parker’s clear description will aid identification: "This little blue is rather like Z. knysa karsandra, but the male has more colouration on the ups and both sexes have three conspicuous discal spots as well as two marginal ones on the unh". Discovered late in the season, so under-recorded. Seen on only two sites (at the Larnaca Salt Lake) where it flies with and is usually outnumbered by, Z. knysa. Nevertheless, it was abundant on one of these sites at peak flight period in September, but finding C. galba in October required patience as their numbers had declined, whilst those of Z. knysa were still high. Recorded in almost all weeks from 29 July to 24 October.
45. Grass Jewel (Chilades trochylus)
Attractive, very small, low-flying species, rarely moving far from nectar source. Often seen in company with Little Tiger Blue (Tarucus balkanicus). Seen in only 3 squares but on no fewer than 33 days! Found particularly on sunny banks but also on grassy tracks and less commonly, on areas almost devoid of foliage. Often gregarious, with up to six seen on the same Helichrysum along with T. balkanicus. Emerges earlier, and remains on wing longer, than Parker and Manil suggest; the first sightings were on 2 March (rather than May) and then recorded in most weeks to 8 November (rather than September).
46. Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)
The larval food-plant, Helianthemum, is widespread in the Mosphiloti hills so it was surprising to encounter this species on only one occasion. Parker states that it is commonly found in the Troodos foothills and Manil reports several sightings. Past and present records indicate that it is far more common in the west of the island. Seen only on 16 May. Tennent earlier recorded A. agestis in the same square.
47. Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus zelleri)
Common in spring and very common in autumn, but rarely seen at lower altitudes in summer in the drier, eastern part of Cyprus. Generally larger than those found in UK but great variability in size, particularly those on the wing in autumn. Variable markings. Rob Parker (pers. comm.) advises that orange lunules on undersides may be large in some specimens. Furthermore, some may be found without a spot in the cell. One such capture (resembling Chapman’s Blue (Agrodiaetus thersites)), even appeared different on the wing but has since been confirmed as P. icarus. Recorded from 31 March to 3 December but with only one sighting during July and August – that described above.
48. Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alceae)
On the wing, in variable numbers, for much of the year but most common in coastal regions during summer. Also present in the hills. Hovering flight over vegetation but capable of rapid flight when in company with others on rough tracks. Worn specimen seen on 7 March, suggesting emergence in February – much earlier than indicated in the literature. Certainly, Mallow (the foodplant) flourishes throughout the mild, Cyprus winter. Usually seen singly but also 3 – 4 in a group near coasts. Recorded in all months from 7 March to 6 December.
49. Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon heydeni)
Uncommon. Seen singly or in groups of 3 or 4, almost always in tall grass. Favoured areas are south-facing, sheltered bends on rough tracks where they are so territorial they appear reliably day after day. Recorded each week from 26 April to 16 June.
50. Pigmy Skipper (Gegenes pumilio)
Fairly common and widely distributed. Early species to emerge - first seen on
31 March on a rough track (typical habitat) in the Coral Bay area. On grassy tracks will often dart repeatedly from one selected perch to another. Territorial. Numbers fall in the summer months but build up again in the autumn. Recorded weekly from 31 March to 24 May, infrequently each month during June – August and weekly from 1 September to 6 December.
51. Millet Skipper (Pelopidas thrax)
Migratory species, not seen until 30 August at Larnaca Salt Lake. None found during September but weekly sightings throughout October. Shares similar habitat to G. pumilio and the two species were occasionally seen together. Noticeably larger (but no less fast!) than G. pumilio and with heavier and much brighter markings. Recorded from 30 August to 1 November.
Summary of Sightings
Two charts provide a summary of the above sightings, with a weekly total of the species seen. The counts should be interpreted with a degree of caution; we were not on holiday in Cyprus and therefore unable to make daily excursions into the countryside. Our highest ‘weekly’ count of 25 species was recorded during a weekend in June, within a small radius of our village. With more time available, closer to 35 species per week could be expected during the summer months.
The last, known, published update of the distribution maps was by Manil in 1990. Since then, Rob Parker has received further records from several recorders and has, himself, revisited the island. The opportunity has been taken to incorporate these records along with those listed in Tennent’s (1985) paper. In addition, I have included records from current residents on Cyprus. The distribution maps should therefore provide a comprehensive picture of known, recorded sightings to date.
Key to Distribution Maps:
A clear circle identifies records by others, including Parker and Manil:
A disc indicates my records for 1998:
A disc within a circle indicates that I, and others have recorded the species in that particular square:
The comments: "Squares in which found" and "Days on which recorded" refer only to my sightings in 1998.
Rob Parker’s enthusiastic response to my call for assistance is gratefully acknowledged, as is his willingness to allow my wife, Jane, to base the computer-drawn maps of Cyprus on his own, meticulously prepared, version. I am also grateful to Nick Greatorex-Davies of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Monkswood for identifying the unusual P. icarus (though I would have preferred a rather more exotic identification!) and to Rob Parker for confirming the identity of the dwarf form of L. maera. My thanks also to Rob Parker for reading through the text and offering helpful advice and also for collating and allowing the use of his, and other, records obtained (from K E J Bailey, Bob Frost, Alain Olivier, Alan Showler, David Whaley and others) since the last update. I would also like to thank Peter Flint for contributing to the records for northern Cyprus, David Whaley for details of recent sightings in southern Cyprus and Bob Frost for his (and Arthur Stagg’s), additional sightings as recorded in a report by the Royal Air Force Ornithological Society6 following an expedition to the Akamas region, Cyprus in Spring 1995.
1Georgiades, C Ch (1992), Nature of Cyprus
2Tolman, T (1997), Butterflies of Britain & Europe, Collins Field Guide
3Parker, R (1983), The Butterflies of Cyprus, Entomologist’s Gazette, 34: 17-53
4Manil, L (1990), Les Rhopalocères de Chypre, L.Manil, Linneana Belgica,
Pars X11, no 8, December 1990
5Tennent, W J (1985), Some Records of Spring Butterflies in Cyprus in 1984, Entomologist’s Gazette, 36:105-109
6Royal Air Force Ornithological Society (1996), Akamas, Cyprus: A Report of Bird Migration Spring 1995