Saturday, 18 August 2018

Two weekend trips to Cuc Phuong - June & August 2018


Well, two other trips to Cuc Phuong National Park- a place I had once visited before with great success. I was hoping to spot a new species or two, but didn't expect anything.

Located 130 km south of Hanoi, Cuc Phuong N.P. extends into the 3 provinces of Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh. It gives a good impression of how lowland Vietnam must have looked before the extensive deforestation of the past 150 years and earlier.

Hô lake, close to the entrance to Cuc Phuong NP

June was much better than August in terms of quantity and diversity of species. It seems very likely that heavy rains over the past few months increase the mortality of caterpillar, pupae and adults, hence the low abundance of butterflies.

Nevertheless, I added Poritia cf. erycinoides, Dercas verhuelli (in June) and Tanaecia jahnu (in August) to my ever-growing life list of butterfly species seen in Vietnam. So, not much in terms of new species, but wonderful weekend trips.

If you are looking close to Hanoi for a short weekend butterfly watching trip well worth the drive, this is it. And if you want to see beautiful sceneries like this:

 ... then you should come early in the season (April would be perfect).

Checklist of the ca. 110 species spotted at the location (2 x 1,5 day, 04/05th June & 11/12th August 2018): 

Papilionidae
Papilio nephelus ++
Papilio helenus ++
Papilio polytes +
Papilio memnon ++
Papilio protenor ++
Papilio paris +
Meandrusa payeni +
Chilasa paradoxa +
Graphium sarpedon ++
Graphium doson ++
Graphium agamemnon +
Graphium antiphates +
Graphium eurypylus ++
Graphium macareus +
Lamproptera curius ++
Lamproptera meges +++

Pieridae
Appias lyncida +++
Appias  albina +++
Appias galba +++
Appias paulina +++
Appias indra ++
Cepora nadina +++
Cepora nerissa +++
Ixias pyrene +++
Hebomoia glaucippe ++
Prioneris thestylis +
Eurema spp. +++
Catopsilia pomona +++
Dercas verhuelli +
Gandaca harina +

Nymphalidae
Danaus genutia ++
Parantica aglea +
Parantica melaneus ++
Euploea mulciber ++
Euploea midamus +
Euploea sylvester ++
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Penthema darlisa +
Ideopsis similis ++
Tirumala septentrionis +
Lethe confusa ++
Neope muirheadi +
Mycalesis spp. +++
Mycalesis malsara ++
Ypthima baldus +++
Athyma cama +
Cupha erymanthis +
Rohana sp. ++
Stichophtalma suffusa ++
Thauria lathyi +
Thaumantis diores +
Vagrans egista ++
Symbrethia lilaea +++
Juniona almana ++
Juniona iphita +
Terinos clarissa +


Cethosia cyane +
Cethosia biblis +
Cirrochroa tyche +
Hestinalis nama +
Euthalia lubentina +
Euthalia monina +
Acraea issoria +++
Vindula erota +++
Phalanta alcippe ++
Kallima cf. incognita +
Hypolimnias bolina ++
Cyrestis thyodamas +++
Cyrestis cocles +++
Cyrestis themire +++
Neptis spp. ++
Pantoporia sp. +
Polyura athamas ++
Polyura nepenthes ++
Charaxes bernardus ++
Tanaecia julii +
Tanaecia jahnu +
Lexias pardalis +
Libythea sp. ++

Riodinidae
Zemeros flegyas +

Lycaenidae
Poritia cf. erycinoides +
Arhopala eumolphus +
Curetis bulis ++
Castalius rosimon +
Euchrysops cnejus +
Jamides celeno +
Heliophorus sp.  ++
Acytolepis puspa +++
Ionolyce helicon +++
Anthene emolus +++
Prosotas dubiosa +++
Prosotas nora +++
Yasoda tripunctata +
Neopithecops zalmora  +
Hypolycaena amasa +++
Hypolycaena othona +

Hesperidae
Bibasis oedipodea ++
Hasora vitta +
Odontoptilum angulata ++
Seseria cf. sambara +
Arnetta atkinsoni ++
Pithauria stramineipennis ++
Thoressa submacula +
Astictopterus jama ++ 
Ancistroides nigrita +
Parnara spp. ++
Potanthus spp. ++



("Abundance" : + 1-2 specimens, ++ 3-10 spec., +++ more than 10 spec.)


Chilasa paradoxa telearchus
Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016) listed 6 Chilasa species in Vietnam viz. agestor, epycides, slateri, clytia, paradoxa and imitata - the last one described in 2003 from central Vietnam. Chilasa paradoxa telearchus is an excellent mimic of the Danaid Euploea mulciber

Meandrusa payeni drinking water - one of the highlight of the August's trip
Occurs in N. and C. Vietnam but is rarely seen as it does not congregate with other butterflies when visiting water

Graphium macareus puddling with Vindula erota

Some Graphium doson (among them one in flight), 1 Prioneris thestylis surrounded by Appias spp.

Graphium eurypylus (right) & G. doson side by side
G. eurypylus is distinguished from the very similar G. doson by the black bar holding the red spot in S8 on the underside of the hindwing joining the black anal submarginal stripe near the base of the cell in a Y. In G. doson this black bar is clearly separate from the black submarginal stripe 

A swarm of Papilionids at a urine site create by myself (see below), including Graphium (doson, sarpedon) and Lamproptera

Lamproptera meges


Lamproptera meges can be distinguished from curius by the forewing discal band, green in meges and white in curius. They can also be separated by examining the dark band outside this paler discal band. In meges the green band is contiguous with the dark band across the whole forewing, whereas in curius there is a narrow transparent band separating the white and dark bands below the forewing cell.

The two species of Lamproptera also have other characters to separate them, particularly the white androconial scales in the anal margin of the hindwing of the male of curius, which are absent in meges, and the green scales at the tip of the antennae of meges, absent in curius.

Until recently, only two species of  Lamproptera were known. But in 2014, a new species has been described from northern Yunnan, China : L. paracurius.

Puddling party with Pierids (Cepora nerissa, Appias albina, A. galba) and Graphium (doson, macareus)

Appias albina - very likely the commonest butterfly at Cuc Phuong. You can see thousands in Spring
The genus Appias  is represented in Vietnam by 9 species (and 11 taxa) - lyncida, olferna, galba, albina, paulina, indra, pandione, lalassis and lalage (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016)


Appias galba (formely known as Appias nero galba
Ranges from N.India to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, S.China. The Orange Albatross sensu stricto refers to A. nero figulina, a species known from southern Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra

Colorful congregation of Appias - mostly galba and albina

Female Appias albina darada


A supposed female Appias albina darada (yellow form?)


Appias indra

A small mud-puddling congregation of Pierids and Papilionid Lamproptera  - with Hebomoia glaucippe in flight. A spot created with one of the bottles below...


The quickest solution to create a mud-puddling spot: your urine!
Firstly, find a sandy bank or a muddy patch situated in direct sunlight where there are quite a lot butterflies - of course, it's better when some specimens are already puddling there. Next, pour the urine – butterflies are attracted to the sodium and ammonium ions in it. You can return to the spot 15-30mn later, before the moisture in the area has evaporated, and, if all goes well, you can photograph several species on your newly created mud-puddling spot!



Hebomoia glaucippe
Large Pierid species. Common and can be seen all year round. Easily distinguished, even in flight, by the large triangular orange marking at the wing tips. But it is difficult to locate when settled on the ground because of the cryptic patterns on the underside of the wings


Cepora nerissa
 The genus Cepora is represented in Vietnam by 3 species – nerissa, nadina and iudith (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016). Cepora iudith has only been recorded in the south of the country whereas the first two are widespread

A poor shot of Dercas verhuelli with Gandaca harina (middle) & Appias galba (left)
D. verhuelli was a new species for me! Made the June's trip worthwhile!
It was not easy to get near to this species and I could only manage some record shots

Euploea midamus

Penthema darlisa mimetica
Compare to the restricted range P. (lisarda) michallati, the other Penthema species present in Vietnam (only in Tonkin i.e. northern Vietnam), P. darlisa show UpF with blue and violet markings and HW with few or not white markings inside the cell (cell almost fully white in michallati). 
It may be that Cuc Phuong is the northern limit of distribution of P. darlisa in Vietnam.

Acraea issoria - copula


Aggregation (dense!) of 3 Cyrestis species, with some Vindula erota trying to compete
A Lexias pardalis also in the upper-right corner


Cyrestis thyodamas

Cyrestis cocles & themire


The genus Cyrestis (“Maps”) comprises around 25 species, all except one (C. camillus/African Map) from Oriental Region. According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 4 Cyrestis species are currently known in Vietnam viz. themire, cocles, thyodamas and nivea. The 3 first ones are easily found at Cuc Phuong.

Athyma cama
The genus Athyma is represented in Vietnam by 15 species – perius, pravara, asura, larymna, kanwa, jina, opalina, orientalis, selenophora, zeroca, whitei, cama, nefte, ranga and punctata (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016)


Polyura athamas - commonly observed at puddles
The genus Polyura  is represented in Vietnam by 10 species – athamas, arja, moori, jalysus, delphis, narcaea, eudamippus, nepenthes, dolon and shreiber (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016). Three species have been recorded from Cuc Phuong: athamas, arja and nepenthes

Polyura nepenthes - one of the highlight of the June's trip (attracted by human urine!)
A fast-flying canopy butterfly, much rarer than P. athamas

Charaxes bernardus

Kallima cf. (limborgii) incognita
Recently, some revisions on the Asian continental Kallima have been carried out by Nakamura & Wakahara (2013) and Nakamura (2014).  Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016) listed 3 species of Kallima in Vietnam: K.  albofasciata continentalis (in the South), K. incognita and K. alicia kishii (the two latter widely distributed throughout the country)


Euthalia lubentina female - upperwing and underwing
This is a member of the lubentina group, recognisable by their characteristic red spotting and greenish sheens. They are generally uncommon insects and are found occasionally along open paths puddling on moist spots and sometimes near the water's edge. Euthalia whiteheadi is very similar but it is a strict montane species.


Euthalia monina kesava, female


The genus Euthalia (“Barons” and “Counts”) is represented in Vietnam by 32 species – a hard genus with many new species described in the years 1990-2000. Identification is confounded by the fact that the males and females of each species are usually very different in colour and pattern, and because several of the species produce a number of different colour forms or morphs. 

E. monina kesava is recorded in the north and the center of the country. It is replaced further south by E. monina remiasThis species is one of  the commonest members of the genus in Vietnam. It is found in small clearings and glades, on river beaches, and along trails and roads in forest habitats.


A supposed other colour morph of Euthalia monina kesava, female


Distant shot of a Tanaecia jahnu - not a nice species I must say, but a new one for me!


Lexias pardalis 


Zemeros flegyas 


Poritia cf. erycinoides
A too brief encounter... I managed to took a few quick poor shots before it flew more higher up to the canopy. A pity because it was a new species for me. The underside of P. erycinoides & hewitsoni are confusingly similar & images are much mixed up on the web
Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016) listed two Poritia species in Vietnam viz. hewitsoni and erycinoides


Anthene emolus on my finger
This lycaenid was very abundant in August, much less in June
According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 3 Anthene species are known to occur in Vietnam viz. A. lycaenina lycambes, A. emolus emolus & A. lycates dusuntua - the last one only recorded from central Vietnam (Lam Dong Prov.), the two first ones widespread throughout the country.

Arhopala eumolphus
Members of this genus are extremely challenging to identify from field shots alone - it's often necessary to collect specimens (at least to examine upperwings). A. eumolphus is one of several species in which the males are metallic green above (and the only one among the 9 species recorded in northern Vietnam). 


Neopithecops zalmora, found mud-puddling in the forest floor

Hypolycaena amasa
The genus Hypolycaena is represented in Vietnam by 5 species - erylus, kina, amasa, thecloides and othona (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016)

Hypolycaena othona

Bibasis oedipodea - arguably my favorite butterfly of the trip
Spotted 4-5 specimens in early morning around a decrepit house at forest's edge, attracted by old walls and other smelly stuff!

In Vietnam, the subfamily Coeliadinae is represented by 4 genera: Bibasis, Hasora, Badamia and Choaspes.

This subfamily is defined by a single, unique and universal feature: third segment of labial palp long, slender, awl-like and perpendicular to the erect second segment. This small subfamily of about 78 medium-sized species is confined to the Old Word tropics, and consists of 9 genera. Although most species can be found by day, many are mainly active (or at least observed) in early morning and evening, and sometimes individuals come to light.

Hasora vitta - also an amazing little critter!
Rarely seen along jungle paths. Often spotted in areas frequented by humans where this butterfly has the habit on sitting on decrepit walls and sucking minerals

Pithauria stramineipennis
This large-sized Hesperid is known to occur from Sikkim to Hainan and south to Sumatra


Thoressa submacula, 2 different specimens - worn and fresh
A species I have seen at Huu Lien also - very likely a specialist of karst forest

Seseria cf. sambara - a nice found some minutes before to leave Cuc Phuong in June

Odontoptilum angulata 
The genus Odontoptilum comprises 3 species, of which one is recorded in Vietnam: O. angulata. This species is characterised by an oriental distribution from India to Borneo, and northward to Taiwan and S.China. In Vietnam, it is recorded throughout the country.

Some nice moths, day-flying ot not :

Geometrid day-flying moth Milionia basalis. Ranges from Japan to Borneo.


Chalcosiinae Zygaenid, Cyclosia cf. papilionaris. This day-flying moth, which is a female, mimics the Glassy Tiger Parantica aglea in appearance and flight. 


Saturniid moth Actias cf. selene with a damaged wing
Saturniidae, commonly known as saturniids, is a family of Lepidoptera with an estimated 2,300 described species. This family contains some of the largest species of moths in the world.
7 Actias species have been recorded in Vietnam: australovietnama, chapae, dubernardi, maenas, rhodopneuma, selene, sinensis

Another large moth in the family Saturniidae: Antheraea sp.found at the headquaters -  very likely the Chinese (Oak) Tussah Moth Antheraea pernyi
Distributed widely across subtropical and tropical Asia. Tussah silk is the best-known and most widely used of all the wild silks. Moths have been raised outdoors on oak trees in China for more than two millennia. Unlike the domestic silkmoth which is entirely dependent on human care, tussah silkmoths can survive in the wild if they escape from captivity.

And a gorgeous katydid  to close out this trip report:
Sanaa intermedia
Sanaa is an Oriental genus, comprising 3 species: S. imperialis, S. intermedia and S. regalis. Only S. intermedia is known from Vietnam. Type locality in "Than Moi, Tonkin", in northern Vietnam.


This species has a very impressive startle response, used to scare predators. Despite its defensive display, this katydid has neither effective spines or strong jaws and would probably be acceptable food to most predators.

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