Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Trip to Ba Vi Mountain in December

It has taken me a while to sit down and write about my butterfly trips. Too many photos and too much to write about. This is my first butterflying report and  I hope that it will be followed by many more. Writing a detailed report is a time-consuming work but it is also a pleasurable keepsake of my butterfly adventures.

In December 2016, I headed to Ba Vi to see if some interesting butterflies were still flying around. Ba Vi Mountain is located 70 km west of Hanoi. A large part is classified as national park.

Very few butterflies were found on the mountainous trails, so I quickly decided to focus my time on the first slopes, more precisely in the Ao Vua tourist area and along the road leading to that of Suôi Tiên. I was pleasantly surprised by the result with around 105 species recorded - not bad for December!

Surveys occured primarily in early-successional habitats (shrublands, young forests...). Most of the butterfly species seen are wide-ranging, common species with broad habitat tolerance.

Collection of specimens was avoided to the extent possible. The butterflies were photographed for subsequent identification and when identification was not possible through photographs, the individuals were collected using insect net and were identified in the field and later released. Some specimens were also identified through binoculars.

Checklist of the species spotted at the location (three visits/6 hours each): 

Troides aeacus ++
Troides helena ++
Pachliopta aristolochiae +
Papilio nephelus ++
Papilio demoleus +
Papilio helenus ++
Chilasa clytia +
Papilio polytes ++
Papilio memnon ++
Papilio protenor ++
Papilio paris +++ 
Papilio bianor gladiator +
Graphium sarpedon +
Graphium agamemnon +
Lamproptera curius ++
Lamproptera meges ++

Delias pasithoe ++
Delias hyparete +++
Prioneris thestylis +
Pieris rapae ++
Pieris canidia + *
Appias lyncida +++
Cepora nadina +
Hebomoia glaucippe +
Ixias pyrene +
Eurema andersoni ++
Catopsilia pomona +++

Thauria lathyi +
Faunis eumeus +
Danaus genutia ++
Parantica aglea +
Parantica sita +
Parantica melaneus +
Euploea mulciber ++
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Tirumala septentrionis +
Elymnias hypermnestra +
Melanitis leda ++
Melanitis phedima +
Lethe confusa ++
Lethe europa +
Lethe chandica+
Lethe mekara +
Mycalesis cf. mineus +++
Mycalesis cf. adamsonii  +
Ypthima baldus +++
Discophora sondaica ++
Acraea issoria +
Pseudergolis wedah +
Ariadne ariadne +
Athyma asura +
Athyma selenophora +
Athyma ranga obsolescens +
Athyma nefte +
Moduza procris +
Cupha erymanthis ++
Cethosia cyane +++
Argyreus hyperbius +

*species added subsequently after another visit on January 7, 2017

Cirrochroa tyche +
Hestinalis nama +
Kanisca canace +
Symbrethia lilaea +++
Symbrethia hypselis +
Juniona iphita +++
Juniona almana ++
Juniona atlites ++
Hypolimnias bolina ++
Cyrestis thyodamas +
Parthenos sylvia ++
Vindula erota +
Stibochiona nicea +
Pantoporia hordonia ++
Neptis hylas ++
Neptis harita +
Neptis clinia susruta +
Neptis sp. +
Polyura cf. athamas +
Charaxes bernardus +
Euthalia lubentina +
Euthalia monina kesava +
Euthalia alpheda + *
Cynitia lepidea +
Cynitia whiteheadi +
Tanaecia julii +

Zemeros flegyas +++

Jamides bochus ++
Jamides celeno +++
Syntarucus plinius + *
Zizina otis ++
Heliophorus sp. ++
Rapala manea schistacea +
Megisba malaya +
Acytolepis puspa
Catochrysops strabo +
Arhopala sp. +
Yasoda tripunctata atrinotata +
Spindasis syama +
Prosotas dubiosa +
Nacaduba kurava or N. beroe +
Surendra quercetorum +

Pseudocoladenia dan +
Matapa cf. cresta +
Tagiadies litigiosa +
Tagiades parra + *
Celaenorrhinus vietnamicus ++
Notocrypta paralysos +
Halpe sp. (H. zola or H. zema) + *
Iton semamora +
Potanthus sp. ++
Parnara sp. +
Pelopidas sp. +
Ancistroides nigrita +
Caltoris sp. +
Iambrix salsala +

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

While strolling along the road leading to Suôi Tiên tourist area, I spotted many Papilionids flitting around the Lantana flowers. I tried to shoot as many different species as possible.
The highlight were 2 species of Troides, aeacus and helena. Though I have seen these species numerous times, they are usually gliding slowly over the canopy. I have also seen them feeding off the flowers, moving from bush to bush, but usually too far out of reach. Fortunately, along this road, some had come down to feed on Lantana flowers, completely unconcerned by my presence.

Troides aeacus, male

Troides aeacus, female

Troides helena, female

For information, both Troides helena and T. aeacus are listed in Appendices II of CITES as endangered species (as are all other Troides species). 

Pachliopta aristolochiae

 Papilio demoleus feeding on Clerodendrum chinense (a highly invasive weed in tropical and subtropical ecosystems)

Papilio memnon

Papilio protenor on Lantana camara - an extremely popular nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies

Papilio paris - fascinating beauty

The Lantana bushes attracted also this rather worn male Papilio bianor gladiator - an unexpected surprise!

Papilio bianor gladiator was described by Fruhstorfer from Tonkin [= northern Vietnam]. This taxon is recorded from Sikkim, Assam to N.Myanmar, N.Thailand, Laos, Vietnam (N. & C.), S.China

Papilio polytes courtship. Female (on the left) display the non-mimetic form cyrus

Papilio polytes, mimetic female 
(mimics the distasteful Common Rose Pachliopta aristolochiae but with an entirely black thorax and abdomen)

Lamproptera curius courtship - the male (right) was not only following the female but also turning around continuously

Lamproptera curius feeding on Bidens flowers
This species is a very curious swallowtail, indeed; in flight it resembles somewhat a dragonfly.

On the Pierids front, all very common stuff but interesting photo opportunities:

 Delias hyparethe, male - nice color harmony between the butterfly and its perch

Delias hyparethe - a distant but interesting shot of a courtship (1 female + 2 males)

female Cepora nadina

Catopsilia pomona, female f. jugurtha 

Parantica sita sita  

Euploea mulciber, male and female

Euploea core

Euploea core visiting Chromolaena odorata flowers

Tirumala septentrionis

Elymnias hypermnestra 
Not the easiest butterfly to photograph - adults are always very alert and  take flight at the slightest disturbance

I only saw a single Jungle Glory (Thaumantis diores)

The shaded trails were home to some strikingly marked shade-loving Lethe butterflies like these:

From top to bottom, left to right: Lethe chandica, L. confusa, L. europa niladana (male), L. mekara crijnana (male)

Mycalesis cf. adamsonii 

Melanitis phedima (dsf)

 Euthalia lubentina, female - a new species for me
It came down for a short while before it disappeared completely

 This male Cynitia whiteheadi (formely known as Euthalia niepelti) kept coming back to perch at the same sunny spot but rather far away

Tanaecia julii (male)

Parthenos sylvia - absolutely stunning upperwings pattern!

Acraea issoria, female laying eggs

Athyma ranga obsolescens

Athyma selenophora

female Athyma nefte asita
The female A. cama is very similar to the female of A. nefte asita but the bands are narrower & the underside bands well-defined

Euthalia monina kesava (male)
E. monina kesava is recorded in the north and the center of the coutry. It is replaced further south by E. monina remias

Hestinalis nama, a Batesian mimic of the distasteful Danaids Parantica sita  and P. melaneus.
Batesian mimics gain protection from predation through the evolution of physical similarities to a model species that possesses anti-predator defences

Moduza procris - always stunned by the beautiful pattern on its upperside wings

Female Stibochiona nicea enjoying the warm early morning sun after a cold night

Argyreus hyperbius (male)

I spotted at least 4 Neptis species, among them Neptis clinia susruta...

... and Neptis harita

Another Neptis species, this one unidentified - still working on it

Symbrethia lilaea

Kanisca canace

I saw also some lycaenids fluttering around....

Jamides bochus, male
When it was flitting around, the metallic iridescent blue upperside was simply magnificent

Jamides celeno, dry season form
In this species, the dry and wet season forms are strikingly different

Catochrysops strabo (male)

Heliophorus sp

Spindasis syama

Megisba malaya 
Above, both sexes are dark brown with a white discal patch which is more prominent in the female

Megisba malaya on a Bidens flower, to show how tiny this species is

Zizina otis covered with drops of morning dew

 Rapala manea schistacea (male)

a male Nacaduba N. kurava euplea or N. beroe gythion 

Prosotas dubiosa 

Yasoda tripunctata atrinotata

Female Surendra quercetorum

Syntarucus (Leptes) plinius
Commonly known as Zebra Blue in reference to its zebra-striped undersides

On the Hesperids front, 14 species were recorded, among them:

Iton semamora

Pseudocoladenia dan

Tagiades parra - a new species for me

Celaenorrhinus vietnamicus
 Closely related to C. aurivittata aurivittata (Moore, 1879) and differs externally in darker ground colour, lighter yellow forewing band, without any trace of orange, and detached apical spot in space 6 (Devyatkin, 1998). Recorded from southern China to central Vietnam. Holotype from northern Vietnam (Ba Vi National Park). 

Notocrypta paralysos asawa

Halpe sp
This is either H. zola or H. zema, the two species look very similar externally. I am not really convinced by some clinching identification features based on color pattern I found here and there. Just hope that the genitalia examination is not the only solution to separate them.

This report wouldn't be complete without some mention of some other fascinating creatures encountered like this restricted range Atrocalopteryx coomani (female), waiting for Prince Charming (I saw none, poor dear):

Or this stunning Phrynarachne sp. crab spider waiting for lunch:

Phrynarachne spp. (Thomisidae) look somewhat like bird dung,
thus they are commonly known as Bird-dung Crab Spiders, or Bird-dropping Crab Spiders

It was a memorable and enjoyable trip for me. I did manage to spot a fair few new species for my records. I am hopeful that there are at least 300 butterfly species that reside here and I hope to record many more throughout the coming years. Ba Vi is a great place for butt hunting close to Hanoi and should be visited if you are in the area.

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