Friday, 16 June 2017

Trip to Huu Lien N.R.

Established in 1986 for the purpose of conserving limestone forests and Musk deer, Moschus  berezovskii, the Huu Lien Nature Reserve is just 110 kilometers northeast of Hanoi, in Lang Son province, and is accessible by a 2,5 hours motorbike trip.

Huu Lien Nature Reserve includes all of Huu Lien commune and a part of Yen Thinh commune, Huu Lung district. The landscape is dominated by limestone karst. The local population comprised of members of the Kinh, Tay, Nung and Dao ethnic groups. They have a high level of dependence on forest resources, which they use for construction materials, food and medicine. Despite the legal protected status, the reserve face significant threats. Of particular concern are overexploitation of natural resources and habitat loss - the sound of chainsaws is moaning, unending...

In 2000, Frontier-Vietnam and IEBR conducted a biodiversity survey of Huu Lien Nature Reserve, focused on vegetation, birds, lepidopterans and amphibians (Furey et al., 2002). A total of 181 butterflies species were recorded during the survey undertaken between April and September 2000, of which 3 new to science (Lethe philesanoides, L. huongii and Scobura eximia)!

Huu Lien belongs to the "Viet Bac" (=northeastern Vietnam) karst zone. Confined to Vietnam east of the Red River, and extending into southern China,  this karst zone is the largest of at least five distinct limestone regions in Vietnam. This "Viet Bac" karst zone support high levels of endemism, not only for butterflies but also for amphibians, reptiles, mammals... Some new genera have been discovered in the past few decades at Huu Lien: Tonkinomys (Muridae rodent), Matticnemis (Odonata, Platycnemididae).

Early in June, I was back to Huu Lien, a place I have visited many times, mainly for dragonflies. Survey mostly occurs along the trails to and around Mo Ang waterfall (Tan Lai village, alt. c.250 m asl) where some nice patches of 'pristine' forest remain.
Highlights: Byasa confusus mansonensis, Papilio castor, Meandrusa payeni langsonensis, Elymnias malelas, Faunis excelsa, Lethe philesanoides/philesana, Celaenorrhinus patula.

Checklist of the species spotted at the location (two days, June 4+10, 2017): 

Troides sp. ++
Byasa confusus +++
Pachiolpta aristolochiae +++
Atrophaneura sp. +
Papilio castor ++
Papilio demoleus +
Papilio nephelus +++
Papilio helenus +++
Papilio polytes +++
Papilio memnon +++
Papilio protenor +++
Papilio paris ++
Papilio bianor +
Meandrusa payeni +
Graphium sarpedon +
Graphium doson +
Graphium agamemnon ++
Lamproptera curius +++

Pieris canidia +
Appias albina +++
Appias galba ++
Cepora nadina ++
Cepora nerissa ++
Ixias pyrene ++
Eurema blanda ++
Eurema hecabe ++
Eurema andersonii ++
Catopsilia pomona +++

Danaus genutia ++
Ideopsis vulgaris +
Tirumala limniace +
Parantica aglea +
Euploea mulciber ++
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Euploea sylvester ++
Elymnias malelas +
Lethe philesanoides/philesana +
Melanitis leda +
Ypthima sp.+++
Mycalesis inopia +
Mycalesis perseoides +
Faunis excelsa ++
Faunis eumeus +

Stichophtalma fruhstorferi +
Penthema michallati +
Ariadne ariadne ++
Cethosia cyane ++
Cethosia  biblis +
Vindula erota +++
Cirrochroa tyche +
Terinos clarissa ++
Cyretis themire +++
Symbrethia lilaea +++
Juniona almana ++
Juniona atlites ++
Kallima "inachus" +
Neptis spp. ++
Phaedyma columella +
Athyma ranga ++
Moduza procris +
Euthalia lubentina +

Zemeros flegyas ++

Caleta roxus +
Pseudozizeeria maha +
Cigaritis lohita +
Mahathala ameria ? +
Jamides bochus +
Neopithecops zalmora ++
Prosotas nora +++
Prosotas dubiosa +++
Nacaduba kurava +
Anthene emolus +++
Tongeia potanini +
Yasoda tripunctata +

Hasora badra +++
Tagiades sp. +
Celaenorrhinus patula +
Gangara thyrsis +
Astictopterus jama ++
Notocrypta curvifascia +
Notocrypta paralysos +
Scobura coniata +
Thoressa submacula  +
Hesperid sp. +

(Abundance : + 1-2 specimens, ++ 3-5 spec., +++ more than 5 spec.)

Huu Lien landscape
All the Papilionids below were photographed around the Lantana thickets at the feet of karst towers

Meandrusa payeni langsonensis nectaring in early morning sun on Lantana camara at the forest edge

Meandrusa payeni langsonensis occurs in N. and C. Vietnam but is rarely seen in nature, as it does not congregate with other butterflies when visiting water

Meandrusa payeni langsonensis, same individual, showing its upperside

Byasa confusus mansonensis, female
The genus Byasa is represented in Vietnam by 8 species viz. crassipes, polyeuctes, dasarada, adamsoni, latreillei, hedistus, nevilli & confusus (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016). B. confusus mansonensis is recorded from N.Vietnam, S.-E. & C. China, Taiwan. It appears to be very local in occurrence in Vietnam (recorded, at least, from Mt. Mau Son, Huu Lien N.R., Mt. Tam Dao)

Byasa confusus mansonensis, female
The female is bigger than male, its upperwings are yellowish-brown, whereas those of the male are black

Byasa confusus mansonensis, male

Pachiolpta aristolochiae  
The red body, slow peculiar flight, bright colouration and pattern of the wings are meant to indicate to predators that this butterfly is inedible, being well protected by the poisons it has sequestered from its larval food plant. It also emits a nasty smelling substance when handled to further enhance its unappealing qualities. Hence it is rarely attacked by predators, a strategy so successful, that edible butterflies have evolved to mimic it, the classic example being that of the female form stichius of Papilio polytes

Papilio polytes, mimetic female displaying the stichius form
This form mimics the Common Rose Pachliopta aristolochiae but with an entirely black body

Papilio polytes, non-mimetic form cyrus  

Papilio castor dioscurus, courtship (male on the left)
The form dioscurus has been described by Jordan from four males collected by Fruhstorfer at "Than Moi", Tonkin [= North Vietnam]. This form show incomplete hindwing discal band (spaces 4-7)

Papilio castor (form mahadeva?), female
Not the complete hindwing discal band

Papilio bianor gladiator

Papilio protenor

Papilio memnon, male

Papilio helenus

Papilio nephelus chaon, courtship

This puddling congregation (mostly Cepora nadina + A. albina, Eurema sp.) was one of the rare I spotted during this trip

Elymnias malelas - not the best shot in the world, but enough for a positive ID...

Lethe philesanoides or L. philesana, female - seems to be the former but only genitalia analysis may confirm this
The type locality of L. philesanoides is Huu Lien

Mycalesis inopia
Until recently, Mycalesis inopia was considered to be a northern Vietnam endemic. Now it is known from Laos, N. & C. Vietnam, S. China, Taiwan. The Type Locality is "Than Moi ; Chiem-Hoa, Tonkin" (this site is close to Huu Lien N.R.)

Faunis excelsa, female
This rather rare species, which appears to be restricted to less disturbed forest habitats, is known from a handful of localities in Vietnam. Also present in E.Laos and S.China (Guangxi)

Faunis excelsa flapping wings, male (left) and female (right)
Female upperwings are more contrasted (cream and pale brownish, duller at FW tip)

Stichophtalma fruhstorferi

Penthema michallati - considered to be a northern Vietnam endemic

Kallima "inachus" - that's what I call camouflage!
Why does the butterfly look like that?  Because then the predator leaves it alone :)

Moduza procris 

A Leopard Lacewing (Cethosia cyane) showing its underside

Euthalia lubentina sipping juice on fruits

Zemeros flegyas

Mahathala ameria

Neopithecops zalmora
 Very similar to Pithecops corvus but differs in the absence of the 2 subcostal black spots on UnF

Nacaduba kurava, female

Hasora badra - I am happy with this shot taken in natural light
90% of the images of this species on the internet have been taken with flash, resulting a 'psychedelic' effect (violet tinge too exacerbated)

Celaenorrhinus patula

Notocrypta curvifascia, the Restricted Demon - on this shot this name fits him like a glove... 
The genus Notocrypta (the "Demons") comprises 13 species, among them 4 have been recorded in Vietnam: N. paralysos asawa, N. clavata theba, N. curvifascia curvifascia & N. feisthamelii alysos (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016) 

Scobura coniata

Thoressa submacula 

Unidentified Hesperid - still working on it

Moth caterpillars (Tinolius sp.) with elaborated "clothing"

Unknown black katydid - Vietnamese Orthoptera fauna is an interesting but hard group, largely inaccessible to amateur entomologists

Matticnemis doi, female - a Huu Lien specialty (Type Locality, never recorded elsewhere)
Described in 2012 as Platycnemis doi, subsequently placed in the new genus Matticnemis. It is the sole species in this genus. All records of this species occured along a c.500m long forest trail!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Trip to Cuc Phuong N.P.

The Cuc Phuong National Park – one of Vietnam’s most beautiful and accessible tropical forests, allows visitors the pleasure of driving comfortably through the park. The road (20 km) snakes along a valley, bordered on both sides by dense primary forest with an amazing diversity of plants, mature trees and animals as well as a number of well-maintained trails to accommodate hikers. Typically the forest canopy closes above the road but occasionally a large break allows light to penetrate to the road surface and the forest floor. These clear areas, with full sunlight intensity, provide the proper conditions for remarkable aggregations of a diversity of butterfly species. Ever so often, at mudpatches in these clearings large assemblages of butterflies burst into a cloud of colours – white, orange, blue, green, and black - when disturbed by approaching vehicles or hikers.

In 1963, at the height of the war, President Ho Chi Minh inaugurated what is now the national park, with the words: “Forest is gold. We must conserve it well. Destruction of the forest will lead to serious effects on both life and productivity.” So Cuc Phuong National Park is now the star of conservation in Vietnam. Just 130km from Hanoi, with daily scheduled buses, accommodation at the edge of the Park as well as in the centre ranges from the modestly luxurious to basic – catering for any budget. Good restaurants are available. Very few similar forests allow such comforts.

The Cuc Phuong butterfly fauna is one of the best studied in Vietnam. The present list of verified species has passed 400 thanks to the research by Ikeda et al. (1998-2002), Hill & Monastyrskii (1999), and Hao et al. (2005). But it's likely that dozen of species remain to be discovered. A total of 450 species is a safe estimate. This is 40% of the known butterfly fauna of Vietnam. So the number of species of butterflies in this not very large forest (220 square km) is the equivalent ot the entire butterfly fauna of Europe. This is biodiversity writ large!

Three weeks ago I was back to Cuc Phuong, a place I have visited many times for birds, but only a few times for butterflies - yes, butterflying and birding are very hard to practice at the same time, and even more so if you are photographer (you will have to change lens all the time !). I stayed there 1,5 day. By the end of the first day I saw around 80 species, and I added 25 more species the following morning. But it's possible to spot more than 100 species in the park on a single, good day - but you will have to let your camera in the bag and use more the net!

Checklist of the ca 105 species spotted at the location (1,5 day, 20/21th May 2017): 


Chilasa paradoxa +
Papilio nephelus +++
Papilio helenus +++
Papilio polytes +++
Papilio memnon +++
Papilio protenor +++
Papilio paris ++
Graphium sarpedon ++
Graphium doson ++
Graphium agamemnon +
Graphium eurypylus ++
Graphium chironides +
Graphium macareus ++
Graphium xenocles ++
Lamproptera curius ++
Lamproptera meges ++

Leptosia nina +
Prioneris thestylis ++
Pieris canidia ++
Appias lyncida +++
Appias  albina +++
Appias galba +++
Appias indra +++
Cepora nadina +++
Cepora nerissa +++
Hebomoia glaucippe ++
Ixias pyrene ++
Eurema andersoni ++
Eurema hecabe ++
Eurema blanda ++
Catopsilia pomona +++

Danaus genutia ++
Parantica aglea +
Parantica melaneus +
Euploea mulciber ++
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Euploea sylvester ++
Tirumala limniace +
Elymnias hypermnestra +
Lethe confusa +++
Penthema darlisa +
Coelites nothis ++
Mycalesis spp. +++
Heteropsis malsara ++
Ypthima spp.+++
Faunis canens ++
Stichophtalma fruhstorferi +
Stichophtalma suffusa +++
Acraea issoria +
Ariadne ariadne +
Athyma selenophora +

Athyma nefte +
Cupha erymanthis ++
Rohana sp. +++
Cethosia cyane +
Cethosia biblis ++
Cirrochroa tyche +
Vagrans egista + +
Hestinalis nama +
Symbrethia lilaea +++
Symbrethia hypselis +
Juniona almana ++
Juniona atlites ++
Hypolimnias bolina ++
Cyretis thyomadas +++
Cyretis cocles +++
Cyretis themire +++
Chersonesia risa ++ 
Vindula erota +++
Neptis clinia +++
Polyura athamas +++
Charaxes bernardus ++
Cynitia lepidea +
Tanaecia julii +

Zemeros flegyas ++
Abisara echerius +

Curetis sp. ++
Jamides celeno +++
Heliophorus delacouri ++
Megisba malaya +
Udara cf. dilecta ++
Acytolepis puspa +++
Tongeia potamini +
Catochrysops strabo +
Ionolyce helicon +++
Anthene emolus +++
Prosotas dubiosa +++
Prosotas nora +++
Hypolycaena amasa ++
Yasoda tripunctata +

Bibasis vasutana + 
Abraximorpha davidii ++ 
Tagiades sp. +  
Odontoptilum angulata ++
Arnetta atkinsoni +++ 
Pelopidas conjuncta + 
Polytremis lubricans +
Astictopterus jama ++  
Ancistroides nigrita +
Koruthaialos sindu + 
Potanthus sp. ++
Parnara sp. ++

(Abundance : + 1-2 specimens, ++ 3-5 spec., +++ more than 5 spec.)

Chilasa paradoxa telearchus - an excellent mimic of Euploea species
Again this species eluded me - couldn't get a close-up shot arghh...!

 Mudpuddling congregation of Appias, mostly albina
The abundance, beauty and diversity of butterflies in the park are among the visitors’ most vivid memories of Cuc Phuong National  Park

Colorful puddling party with, from left to right, Appias galba, Cepora nerissa & C. nadina
Note the the difference of color pattern of the two A. galba - the reddish 'form' is rarer

Hebomoia glaucippe
 An obvious species in flight, but very cryptic at rest

Catopsila pomona, male f. alcmeone

Coelites nothis
Underwing pattern very 'Satyrin-style', but that's not the case of the upperwings which show a stunning and unexpected blue tinge

Heteropsis malsara
This species was earlier considered to be part of the genus Mycalesis but phylogenetic studies have re-classified them in genus Heteropsis (Kodandaramaiah et al., 2010)

 Stichophtalma suffusa tonkiniana (left) & S. fruhstorferi (right) - note the completely fused   submarginal black markings in the former. At Cuc Phuong, the two species occur sympatrically.

Stichophtalma fruhstorferi 
 Note on UnH the small streak (red arrow) inside the discal cell. In Vietnam, only S. fruhstorferi and S. uemurai show this feature

Tanaecia julii - pair in copula

Cethosia biblis, male

Acraea issoria

Chersonesia risa

Eurema andersoni puddling with Cyrestis themire

Charaxes bernardus puddling with Polyura athamas
Charaxinae (in Vietnam, genera Charaxes and Polyura) feeding from dung, carrion and rotting fruit  but rarely (if ever) 'nectar' at flowers

Butterflies feasting on some fresh human dung (Charaxes sp., Polyura athamas, Vindula erota, Lethe confusa)
Some butterflies have slightly less salubrious habits than we like to think... 

Polyura athamas 

Abisara echerius 

Curetis sp. (bulis and acuta are both present at Cuc Phuong, identification from underside only is tricky)

Acytolepis puspa

Ionolyce helicon

I thought it was a new species for my personal list but I couldn't find anything in the Vietnam's Polyommatinae list that matched up. A. Monastyrskii solve the mystery: it's 'just' an aberrant female specimen of (very likely) Pseudozizeeria maha !

Prosotas nora perched on my finger - very tiny indeed...

Tongeia potamini
Two species of Tongeia are known from Vietnam (Monastyrskii  & Devyatkin, 2016): T. potanini (subsp. potanini in the North, subsp. umbriel in Central VN) and T. ion (North only)

Yasoda tripunctata

Bibasis vasutana - my favorite butterfly of the trip (I really love Coeliadinae Hesperids!)

Odontoptilum angulata mud-puddling at moist soil

Koruthaialos sindu
The genus Koruthaialos comprises of 4 species, all of which being limited to the Oriental region. In Vietnam 3 are recorded - rubecula, sindu and butleri.

Arnetta atkinsoni - often seen at puddling spots

A supposed Polytremis lubricans

Next trip: Anywhere I can get to use my camera a lot!