Sunday, 13 December 2015

Genus special: Coenonympha (part II)

Second part in the Coenonympha special

Russian heath - Coenonympha leander
Distributed from the Balkan over Turkey to the Caucasus from 500-2000m, from hilly grasslands to subalpine zone.



Balkan heath - Coenonympha (leander) orientalis
There are several opinions on the status of this taxon, from being a subspecies of C. gardetta, a subspecies of C. leander to a species on its own. An article debating this can be found here.


False ringlet - Coenonympha oedippus
A lowland species, mostly found <500m, has declined seriously in Europe. Mostly found in wet grasslands, hence water management probably being one of the main reasons for the decline.

central Europe

Scarce heath - Coenonympha hero
Until the early nineties this species had a population in the south of Belgium. Changes in forest management, water level management, nitrification and maybe climate change have however induced a massive decline in the western distribution of this species so that nowadays - apart from a few populations in the very east of France - it has almost disappeared from France as well.  


Large heath - Coenonympha tullia
A species that has declined massively in NW-Europe and has disappeared from Belgium and parts of the Netherlands and northern France. Reasons for decline are probably a combination of nitrification, water level management, climate change,... 
I have only seen it once in northern Austria on a windy day so butterflies were difficult to get close by so I only have this vague picture. A variable species with lots of described local forms. The form depicted here is C. tullia tiphon.


Eastern large heath - Coenonympha (tullia) rhodopensis
The Balkan mountain replacement of previous species and in debate if a species on its own. Subalpine to alpine.

NE Greece


Dusky heath - Coenonympha dorus
To be found in the western Mediterranean area from central Italy over the south of France and Iberia to northwestern Africa.



Corsican heath - Coenonympha corinna
Endemic of Corsica and Sardinia, common on the islands.


Elban heath - Coenonympha (corinna) elbana
Closely related to previous species and nowadays mostly seen as a subspecies of Corsican heath. It is restricted to Elba and some smaller islands but can also be found on the opposing Tuscan coast where I could see the species.

Tuscany, Italia

Coenonympha saadi
A middle eastern specialty. From central Turkey over Transcaucasia into Iran.


Species fromt the Western Palearctic still missing in this list are mainly far eastern species, island specialties and species from northern Africa. All species I hope to see in the future...

Far east:
- Coenonympha (Triphysa) phryne: from the Crimea eastwards
- Coenonympha (Triphysa) dohrnii: unclear if in Western Palearctic, from eastern slopes of Ural eastwards.
- Coenonympha amaryllis: from southern Ural mountains to the east
- Coenonympha symphyta: endemic of Transcaucasia

Island specialities:
- Coenonympha thyrsis: endemic of Crete

Northern Africa: 
- Coenonympha arcanioides: from N Morocco over the Rif mountains to Tunesia
- Coenonympha vaucheri: high mountain species in Morocco
- Coenonympha (dorus) fettigii: from Morocco to Tunesia 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Genus special: Coenonympha (Part I)

One of my favorite genera is the genus Coenonympha, so here (the first part of) an overview of some - not all - Western Palearctic species:

Common Heath - Coenonympha pamphilus
In most of Europe a common to very common species, although in NW-Europe, Belgium f.i., declines have been noted - as in lots of common grassland species (Thymelicus sylvestris, Lasiommata megera). Like most Heaths this is a rather variable species, all pics from Belgium or northern France close to Belgian borders.

Coenonympha (pamphilus) lyllus
There is still debate about the status of this form/taxon. In most field guides lyllus is noted down as a southern form of Coenonympha pamphilus. Some literature however consider lyllus as a species on its own. It is still unclear to me what the exact distribution is of lyllus. It is described from southern Spain and can certainly be found in northern Africa, Spain (including Balearics) and Sardinia. Other sources also place the eastern Mediterranean populations under this name. If someone can get me a digital copy of following article I would be very grateful:
BOILLAT, H., 2003. Coenonympha lyllus Esper, 1805, spec. rev. une nouvelle approche taxinomique du complexe pamphilus. - Alexanor 22:243-309

Unfortunately I only have this vague picture of this taxon/form (southern Spain 2011 - 1430m), my first trip where I paid some attention to butterflies. Another reminder to take more pictures of common species during travels...

Luckily I did learn my lesson, this one is from Armenia from 2015. According to the Wiemers monograph on Coenonympha the determination clue should be the silver lining bordering the wing...
Another article discussing morphological characters of lyllus.


Pearly heath - Coenonympha arcania
A species common over large parts of Europe, not in the S of Iberia, the British Isles and some western parts of Europe, mostly below 1200m. In Belgium only present in the southern half.


N. France

Chestnut heath - Coenonympha glycerion
To be found in large parts of Europe, in Belgium it was always confined to the extreme south of the country but nowadays it is extinct although a wanderer from populations just south of the border is still possible...  



ssp. bertolis, a high mountain form of the SW-Alps of C. glycerion (France, Alpes-de Haut-Provence)

Coenonympha (glycerion) iphioides
In the Iberian peninsula C. glycerion is replaced by C. (glycerion) iphioides, still under debate if this is a species or a subspecies of C. glycerion. According to following genetic study iphioides is not a sister taxon of glycerion, so supporting the species hypothesis.


Alpine heath - Coenonympha gardetta
Widely spread in the Alps from France to Austria, mostly >1000m.

Switzerland, Graub√ľnden

C. Austria

Darwin's heath - Coenonympha (gardetta) darwiniana
Still under debate if this is a species or subspecies of Coenonympha gardetta or even a stable hybrid population between C. gardetta and C. arcania. To be found in the southern and soutwestern Alps.
An article discussing the status of darwiniana can be found here.
The results of an extensive - albeit a bit older - research can be found here.
Another article is this one, if someone can get me the full text I would be grateful.

Switzerland, Ticino

Switzerland, Ticino

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Variability in Lesser purple emperor

Last august 2015 I was travelling through central Europe with my girlfriend looking for butterflies, see also one of my previous posts. One of the species I wanted to try to see was Freyer's purple emperor Apatura metis, a species with a limited distribution within Europe confined to some of the bigger river valleys in southeastern Europe. It has a wider distribution in the eastern palearctic reaching Japan. During my trip preparation i came along this paper about butterfly monitoring in the Drava valley on the Hungarian-Croatian border. As this seems to be the most northwesterly location to find Freyer's purple emperor we visited 2 locations mentioned in the article to search the river banks on the 8th of august.
At both locations we saw a great number of Apatura species and although most were readily identified as Lesser purple emperor Apatura ilia one thing that quickly became obvious was that Lesser purple emperor is a very variable species, more variable than one would think just reading the commonly used field guides. All of the observed specimens were at least in some extent orange so belonging to the form 'clytie'.

A typical Lesser purple emperor f. clytie

In several field guides - for example Lafranchis and Haahtela et al - one of the main characters mentioned between the two species is the size of the eyespot in the submarginal area in the frontwing. In Freyer's purple emperor this eyespot should be smaller than in Lesser purple emperor. Another character mentioned is a clear step in the discal orange band on the hindwing (cell M2-M3). Freyer's purple emperor should also be clearly smaller than Lesser purple emperor with a more tapering frontwing shape.
Now some pictures of one of the individuals that I saw

 The individual at the back with a typical Lesser purple emperor at the front

Small eyespot

A clear step at the second last cell in the orange discal band

Although all the above mentioned features clearly point to Freyer's purple emperor there were a few things that made me suspicious.
First of all this was maybe the most clearcut individual but I had seen already other individuals with some mixed characters. 

Another rather small individual with a rather small eyespot

Secondly Tolman mentions that the orange marginal band on the frontwing broadens to the top. Here it fades out and is getting smaller. Looking at other pictures of Freyer's purple emperor you can see that this orange band broadens clearly so that in some cases it reaches the outer margin of the white spots in the wingtip.

A picture by Paul Cools of Freyer's purple emperor in Bulgaria

Another thing that worried me was the nature of the dark postdiscal band. In my pictures this band is divided in two rows of merging spots, especially visible at the outer margin. In Freyer's purple emperor this band is narrower and more solid.

In an older article in the magazine phegea they mention the relative width of the dark postdiscal band if measured against the sum of the widths of both pale bands bordering this dark band and the dark postdiscal band. This relative value should be less than 0.40 in Freyer's purple emperor males with only 1% of Freyer's males out of range and only 1,5% of Lesser males in overlap. Check the link to the article to get more background on the sample size and the way of measuring. When I do this exercise on the pictures I took I come to a value of more or less 0.52, clearly out of range for Freyer's. On the picture by Paul Cools I come to a value of more or less 0.29, without doubt within the range of Freyer's purple emperor.

So to conclude, in my opinion I have only seen genuine Lesser purple emperors and I learned that determination of Freyer's purple emperor isn't that straightforward as I always thought... but after all, we travel to learn so very happy to have seen all these Lesser purple emperors.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Slovenia august 2015 - Julian Alps

Last august I made a tour from Slovenia through Hungary and to W-Slovakia. First some pictures from the Julian Alps in Slovenia. I was in the Julian Alps in July 2013, 2013 however was a very late season with lots of species flying later than normal so I missed out on some species. For this reason I was happy to visit the region again.


Erebia calcaria, female

Erebia gorge, female

Erebia pronoe, male

Source of the Soca river

Erebia pronoe

Erebia stirius, male

Erebia styx trentae, male


Pieris mannii, female

Polyommatus coridon, male

Minois dryas

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Armenia part X

Day 14: South of Agarakadzor

My last day in Armenia and I needed to leave for Yerevan in the afternoon so I visited an area close to Yeghegnadzor at 1300m in a river valley south of Agarakadzor.

Thymelicus lineola

Pseudophilotes vicrama

Polyommatus (Agrodiaetus) firdussii (pseudactis)

Coenonympha saadi

Provisional species list:

 Pyrgus sidae
 Carcharodus lavatherae
 Thymelicus lineola
 Iphiclides podalirius
 Leptidea duponcheli
 Aporia crataegi
 Colias croceus
 Colias alfacariensis
 Lycaena phlaeas
 Satyrium spini
 Cupido osiris
 Celastrina argiolus
 Pseudophilotes vicrama
 Plebejus argus
 Aricia agestis
 Polyommatus amandus
 Polyommatus icarus
 Polyommatus firdussii
 Satyrium hyrcanicum
 Satyrium ledereri
 Tomares romanovi
 Argynnis aglaja
 Issoria lathonia
 Melitaea didyma
 Melitaea arduinna
 Limenitis reducta
 Maniola jurtina
 Melanargia larissa
 Chazara persephone
 Coenonympha saadi
 Neptis rivularis
 Satyrus amasinus