Friday, 24 March 2017

Local spring on the move

Last Wednesday I saw a comma Polygonia c-album depositing an egg on Urtica dioica during my fieldwork. I hadn't got the egg of this species on picture yet so - as I didn't have my camera with me during work - I decided to return today to get the egg on pic.
Although there was a rather cold wind several butterflies and several spring hoverflies were active.

Peacock Aglais io

Holy blue Celestrina argiolus male, first pupae hibernators on the move already

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni male

Cheilosia albipila male

The egg itself was in a shady part of the forest on a low and small nettle, so not easy task to get pictures of

Comma Polygonia c-album on stinging nettle Urtica dioica

Once back home I thought of checking some Ribes in the garden as I had found caterpillars of Comma in the previous years on those plants. It took me no more than 10 seconds to find an egg! No laying on the ground in fresh stinging nettles to get pictures of this one! The small caterpillar is already formed inside the egg and you can see the slightly darker head in the upper part of the egg.










Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Gran Canaria & Fuerteventura: moths (4)

Just like in butterflies, the Canary islands holds only a limited amount of species of moths (compared to mainland European countries) but the fauna is a very diverse one. It is a mixture of widespread SW European species, N African species, African migrants and endemic species.
During my trip I had the luck to stay at some locations with spotlights on the terraces that attracted nice numbers of moths.
It is by no means the intention of this post to give a full overview, just to give a glimpse of the diverse fauna.
For determination I used several sources, two of them are most important. Last year during my stay in Tenerife I could buy this book of Marcoz Baez: http://www.pemberleybooks.com/product/mariposas-de-canarias/30/
It gives an overview of all Canarian species with a fair number of them on picture (collection specimens), nomenclature is a bit outdated.
When coming to an initial determination with that book I later on checked this with pictures on lepiforum.

Noctuidae
Euxoa canariensis
Unlike what the name suggests this species is not an endemic although the nominotypical subspecies is and is originally described from the Canary islands. It is a widespread, but like all Euxoa species, a variable species.


Acontia lucida
A widespread S European species.


Caradrina rebeli
An endemic species, seemed to be widespread. In Baez both Caradrina rebeli and Caradrina lanzarotensis are mentioned but the latter seems nowadays to be considered a synonym, probably referring to the pale morphs.

dark morph on Gran Canaria

pale morph on Fuerteventura

Mniotype usurpatrix
Endemic of the Canary islands.



Gerarctia poliotis
A very small Noctuid species, endemic.


Erebidae
Rhynchina canariensis
An endemic and variable species.


Hypena obsitalis
A widespread Mediterranean species with migratory behavior.


Cerocala algiriae
A Mediterranean species.


Eublemma cochylioides
A southern migratory species, a marvelous little creature.


Geometridae
Episauris kiliani
This species I didn't see on this trip but last year in La Gomera. As it is a Macaronesian endemic specialized for the three heath above the laurel forests that are so typical for the Macaronesian islands I found it nice to include it here.


Eupithecia tenerifensis
One of the several endemic Eupithecia species, more of them to follow!


Eupithecia schuetzeata


Eupithecia rosai


Scopula guancharia
Again an endemic species.


Scopula asellaria
A Mediterranean species with a Canarian subspecies.



Aspitates collinaria
Endemic to the Canaries.


Microloxia schmitzi
Known from the Canary islands and SW Morocco.


Sphingidae
Hyles tithymali
Nominotypical subspecies is a Canarian endemic, seems to replace Hyles euphorbiae in the Canaries. We only found the species as caterpillar.


Hope you all enjoyed this small introduction to the moths of the Canaries! 




















Friday, 17 February 2017

Gran Canaria & Fuerteventura - Nymphalidae (3)

Danaus plexippus
This nearctic species is fairly common in the Canary islands, reproduction probably happens mostly near urban environments where the larval foodplants of the genera Asclepias and Gomphocarpus are widely used in gardens and parks but as it is a strong flyer you can come across a Monarch about every where there are some flowers and trees.

nectar feeding on the larval foodplant Asclepias curassavica

males are recognized by their androconial patches central on the hindwing

Danaus chrysippus
This species is more confined to natural habitats in the Canaries than previous species. It is an afrotropical species with a migratory behavior, each year moving up north to the Mediterranean area with highest abundances in autumn. Most probably the species can't survive Mediterranean winters. 
In the Canary islands this species is probably present year-round and is mainly found in warm barrancos, these locations heat up quickly during the day but still hold some humidity in the lowest parts creating the specific needs for this species with the larval foodplants present on the dry slopes and more lush vegetation with nectar for the adults.



Vanessa vulcania
This Macaronesian endemic can be found on Gran Canaria & Fuerteventura. I only saw a few individuals on Gran Canaria, it seemed less common than on Tenerife last year.



Vanessa atalanta
Seen more or less daily but never in great numbers.



Vanessa cardui
This species was common all over, mostly in singletons but near Betancuria in central Fuerteventura locally large numbers could be found. Most of these butterflies were rather fresh, suggesting that these butterflies were locally bred and not immigrants for more south. Larvae were found on lots of locations on at least three different foodplants: Malva cf. parviflora (GC & FU), Cynara cardunculus (FU) and Forsskaolea angustifolia (GC & FU). Apart from living larvae also lots of empty larval cases were found, some of them containing dried up dead larvae suggesting a high level of predation and/or parasitism.

nearly full grown larva on Malva

young larva on Cynara cardunculus 

Some Echium decaisnei plants near Betancuria attracted high numbers

nice & fresh

Vanessa virginiensis
In older literature this species is not mentioned for Gran Canaria, recently however there seem to be at least some sightings (see for example). I saw one individual in central Gran Canaria but unfortunately was unable to make pictures. Luckily I made some nice pictures last year.

Pararge xiphioides
Endemic to the 5 western islands, strangely enough I only saw one individual on Gran Canaria. As it was early in the trip I didn't put much effort in making pictures. Probably this species is more common in the more humid north of the island, while we mainly visited locations in the southern half of the island. Pictures of this species in last years overview.

Hipparchia tamadabae
Flight period for this species is mostly described as starting from april (late march). A picture on lepiforum suggested already that locally this species can fly more early. It was however not until we accidentally met some Belgian friends who had made pictures of an individual end of January that I started to hope to see this species this early. When returning to Gran Canaria from Fuerteventura we visited both the location of the Belgians as the location of the German observation and on both locations we saw the species. This must by far be the earliest Hipparchia to start flight season!









Thursday, 16 February 2017

Gran Canaria & Fuerteventura - Lycaenidae (2)

Cacyreus marshalli
This originally southern African species is well spread in the Canaries, mainly around buildings where the larval foodplant Pellargonium grows, but it can be found in more natural environment ass well. This species was accidentally introduced to the Balearics in the late 1980's and has since then spread all over the Mediterranean area. Nowadays it can be found from the Canary islands in the west to Turkey in the east.





Cyclyrius webbianus
This species is an endemic of the 5 westernmost Canary islands so it can be found on Gran Canaria but not on Fuerteventura/Lanzarote. The species is not uncommon in natural environments in Gran Canaria although numbers are rather low in winter. More information on this species in the post from last year.





Lampides boeticus
This is a subsaharan migratory species, just like the well known Vanessa cardui. Building up populations after winter, each generation moves up further north into Europe, retreating back south when northern winter starts again. This species is fairly common in the Canaries with locally nice numbers together. Probably the species breeds throughout the year in the Canary islands.




Leptotes pirithous
Just like previous species this is an African migratory species, however reaching less far north into Europe where populations never really reach far beyond the Mediterranean region. Unlike previous species this one is only recently known from the Canary islands, only since halfway the 1990's observations became known of the Canaries but now it has been seen from all of the islands already.



For people having difficulties in determination of Lampides boeticus and Leptotes pirithous this last picture can be an informative one. The lower individual is Leptotes pirithous, the other is Lampides boeticus
In Leptotes pirithous you can see a clear white line at the base of the front wing along the costa, in Lampides boeticus you can see broad vague white lines in between the fine white lines where Leptotes pirithous only has a chaotic pattern of fine white lines.


Polyommatus celina
This taxon replaces Polyommatus icarus in N-Africa and some extreme southwestern parts of Europe and has no definite external characters but differs clearly in mtDNA. In the two easternmost Canary islands it is present as well and not uncommon wherever the larval foodplant Lotus lancerottensis is present. There are records from some of the more westerly islands as well but these remain unconfirmed and may refer to misidentifications with other species of blues present.

male

Brightly coloured female on the larval foodplant

male

Aricia cramera
Present on the 5 westernmost Islands. It replaces Aricia agestis in the Iberian peninsula and northern Africa. We didn't see it last year on Tenerife or La Gomera but found it not uncommon on Gran Canaria this year on some semi-natural grasslands.

copula

male

Zizeeria knysna
Mostly on grasslands around human settlements but the male pictured here was found in a dried up barranco in semi-natural environment.



Azanus ubaldus
This is a desert species with a distribution from central Asia to N Africa. Until recently there were only a few sightings from the Canary islands, except from one Fuerteventura sighting all of them from the southern tip of Gran Canaria. Recently more about the life cycle became known.
It is a very small species flying at high speed through the branches of its larval foodplant, in Gran Canaria the non native Acacia farnesiana and Prosopis juliflora. After more than two hours of observations I saw the species on some 5 occasions, some of these probably concerning the same male doing patrol flights. Unfortunately I was not able to make pictures in the field because never I saw the species sitting down. With some mechanical help however I could confirm the species, as these same trees are used by Leptotes pirithous as well. The latter is however a slightly bit bigger and brighter blue and has a less erratic flight. Both confirmed larval foodplants are used as ornamental plant on the Canary islands, above that both species, and especially Acacia farnesiana, have a tendency to become invasive species. We saw lots of Acacia farnesiana in some abandoned fields along the GC-505 road just N of the main highway, unfortunately too late on the day to stop and have a check for Azanus ubaldus.

Acacia farnesiana

female Azanus ubaldus, released in situ