Thursday, 23 February 2017

254. Arhopala eumolphus eumolphus (The Common Green Oakblue)

Number: 254
Family: Lycaeniidae
Sub-Family: Thecliinae
Species: Arhopala eumolphus eumolphus (Stoll, [1780])
Common name(s): The Common Green Oakblue
Photography location: Cuc Phuong N.P. (Ninh Binh Prov.)

Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016) listed 53 Arhopala species recorded in Vietnam, the great majority from the South and Central regions. Only 9 are recorded in the North: A. centaurus nakula, A. dispar dispar, A. perimuta perimuta, A. elopura dama, A. bazalus teesta, A. eumolphus eumolphus, A. birmana birmana, A. paraganesa zephyretta and A. ammonides ammonides.
Distinguishing the Arhopala species is very difficult, and best achieved by reference to keys and genitalia illustrations.

Arhopala eumolphus is one of several species in which the males are metallic green above (and the only one among the 9 species listed above). 

Arhopala eumolphus, male, Cuc Phuong (May 2016)
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)

Arhopala eumolphus, male, upperside, voucher specimen from Cuc Phuong (May 2016)

Same specimen, underside

 Arhopala eumolphus, female, underside, voucher specimen from Cuc Phuong (May 2016)

Same specimen, upperside

253. Euploea sylvester harrisii (The Double-branded Blue Crow)

Number: 253
Family: Nymphaliidae
Sub-Family: Danaiinae
Species: Euploea sylvester harrisii C. & R. Felder, [1865]
Common name(s): The Double-branded Blue Crow
Photography location: Cuc Phuong N.P. (Ninh Binh Prov.)

Euploea sylvester is a widespread member of the genus, occurring from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to S. China, Indochina and the Malay Peninsula, extending south to N.E. Australia and New Caledonia. The subsp. recognized from Vietnam (and also from mainland Southeast Asia + S. China) is E. sylvester harrisi.

The male of Euploea sylvester is unmistakable, having two long parallel brands on the UpF. However in fly, it may be confused with other species having a similar size and blue gloss on the UpF e.g. E. algeaE. mulciberE. camaralzeman and E. midamus (Monastyrskii, 2011). I didn't yet manage to get images of this species in the field.

Identification of Euploea species from photos is often difficult and very risky, especially if you only got shots of underside. Some species are poorly characterized and sometimes wing pattern show significant differences from one population to another. Comparing shots taken in the field to images on the Internet can be very confusing. That's why I highly recommend to capture specimens for close examination of features and safe identification.
For key to the Vietnamese species of the genus Euploea, see Monastyrskii (2011) - reference below.

 Euploea sylvester harrisii, male, upperside - voucher specimen from Cuc Phuong (July 2016)
Note the two prominent grey brands in mid-space 1b of UpF
Up entirely blue glossed in both sexes

Same specimen, underside

Butterflies of Vietnam, Vol. 3: Nymphalidae: Danainae; Amathusiinae (A.L. Monastyrskii, 2011)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

252. Euploea mulciber mulciber (The Striped Blue Crow)

Number: 252
Family: Nymphaliidae
Sub-Family: Danaiinae
Species: Euploea mulciber mulciber (Cramer, [1777])
Common name(s): The Striped Blue Crow
Photography locations: Ba Vi foothills (Hanoi), Tam Dao (Vinh Puc Prov.)

According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 17 Euploea species are currently known in Vietnam viz. modesta, crameri, camaralzeman*, core*, orontobates, algae, swainson, doubledayi, eyndhovii, sylvester*, mulciber*, tulliolus*, phaenareta, midamus*, klugii*, eunice* & radamanthus*, of which 9 have been recorded in the North (*). The species of Euploea can be very difficult to ID based on the underside alone.

The sexually dimorphic Striped Blue Crow is one of the most common Euploea species in my habitual butt hunting grounds. Though not abundant, the adults have been observed in many locations, from pristine forest at Cuc Phuong N.P. to wastelands and urban parks. It is polyphagous and has many larval host plants in the Moraceae, Apocynaceae and Asclepiadaceae families, which explains its broad habitat tolerance (eurytopic species).

Euploea mulciber male resting on a leaf (Tam Dao, May 2016)
UpF dark brown strongly suffused with iridescent blue and with numerous white spots, UpH without submarginal white spots and with a small grey patch in cell (hidden by HW here)

The male can be distinguished from other blue Euploea species by the absence ot the sex brand on the UpF.

Euploea mulciber male nectaring (Ba Vi, December 2016)

The female is easily distinguished from other Euploea species by the numerous long streaks on HW
She appears to be the model for some mimetic Satyrines, notably Penthema darlisa and Elymnias malelas. Among the probable mimics of the males are certain Papilionids (e.g. Chilasa slateri and Ch. paradoxa) and Satyrines (e.g. Elymnias patna, E. malelas and E. casiphone(Monastyrskii, 2011).

Female sipping nectar from Chromolaena odorata flowers (Ba Vi, December 2016)
The striped HW of the female is probably what gave this species its common English name

Female, upperside, voucher specimen

Nice congregation of Euploea species puddling on a wall (mulciber and tulliolus at least + Tirumala septentrionis)

Close-up on a male E. mulciber

A 5th instar E. mulciber caterpillar
Detailed life history information is available from the following resource: ButterflyCircle Blog (courtesy of Dr. Horace Tan)

Butterflies of Vietnam, Vol. 3: Nymphalidae: Danainae, Amathusiinae (A.L. Monastyrskii, 2011)

251. Tagiades gana sangarava (The Large Snow Flat)

Number: 251
Family: Hesperiidae
Sub-Family : Pyrgiinae
Species: Tagiades gana sangarava Fruhstorfer, 1910
Common name(s): The Large Snow Flat
Photography location: Tam Dao foothills (Vinh Phuc Prov.)

Tagiades butterflies are popularly known as Snow Flats because of the pure white patches on the hindwings of many species, and the flat resting posture. The genus comprises 17 known species. According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 7 are currently known in Vietnam: japetus, gana, parra, litigiosa, menaka, cohaerens hybridus - the last one described from central VN in 2001.

Menaka, litigiosa, parra, hybridus and cohaerens show in both sexes large white tornal area of HW reaching space 4, unlike japetus and gana.

A very chewed up Tagiades gana (Tam Dao, mid-October 2015) - presumably a female
Despite its bad condition, it's obvious that this specimen had a very narrow white tornal area on HW (some residual white scales are still visible)

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Trip to Sa Pa in January

Let me wrap up what I have seen and shot during a butterfly-watching (and birding) short trip to Sa Pa (Lao Cai Prov., northwest Vietnam).
At the hill station (1600m asl), the weather was gloomy, so I quickly headed to Ô Quy Hô pass (2035m) separating Lao Cai and Lai Chau Provinces, in search of sunny weather. One kilometer below the pass, along National Road 4B, I stopped at a large patch of scrubs bathed in early morning sun through misty fog. There I found 2 males Heliophorus eventa and Heliophorus brahma, side by side - two Lycaenids only recorded from the extreme north of the country. And two real lifers for me. I searched the place for another male or even the female, and bumped into a Riodinid I have also never seen before: Abisara freda - another local specialty. Three new species for my records under my belt and I was really happy. Pieris erutae montana was quite common above 1500m asl, and I had also 3-4 sightings of Colias fieldi, a nice orange Pierid only recorded in Vietnam from Ha Giang and Lao Cai Prov..
Below 500m asl, I added about 35 species to the list, mostly common stuff with broad habitat tolerance.

All in all a very enjoyable outing with records of some species very localized in Vietnam - and this despite the unfavorable season (the worst one in fact...). The hill station of Sa Pa is one of the best places in the country for Sino-Himalayan butterflies (the Hoang Lien Son range lie at the south-eastern extent of the Himalayan chain). In fact, in this area, we see the convergence of 3 distinct biogeographical realms, the Sino-Himalayan, Indo-Malayan and Palaearctic. The overlap of this 3 realms leads to a unique species composition of exceptional diversity, not only for butterflies but also for birds, amphibians, flora etc.

I will come back this year, in spring or summer, for sure!

Checklist of the species spotted at the location (Tam Đường District/Lai Chau Prov., along QL 4B, from 300m to 1800m asl, one day/6 hours): 

**Pieris erutae montana ++
Pieris canidia ++
Appias lyncida +
Hebomoia glaucippe +
Eurema blanda ++
Catopsilia pomona +
**Colias fieldi ++

Danaus genutia ++
Cethoria biblis +
Parantica aglae +
Parantica sita +
Parantica melaneus +
Acraea issoria (larvae) +++
Vanessa cardui +
Euploea core ++
Lethe verma +
Mycalesis sp.
Athyma selenophora +
Athyma perius +
Moduza procris +
Symbrethia lilaea +++

Juniona lemonias +
Neptis hylas ++
Neptis sp. +
Cynitia lepidea +

Zemeros flegyas +
Abisara echerius +
Abisara neophron +
*Abisara freda +

*Heliophorus eventa ++
*Heliophorus brahma ++
Catochrysops strabo +
Zizeeria maha +
Lampides boeticus +

Notocrypta curvifascia +
Potanthus sp. ++
Parnara sp. +

(Abundance : + 1-2 specimens, ++ 3-5 spec., +++ more than 5 spec.)
* Sino-Himalayan species
**Palaearctic species with distribution extending into the Oriental Region

Pieris erutae montana
Found around high-altitude vegetable gardens of ethnic minority people, where the caterpillars feed on family Cruciferae like cabbages

Pieris canidia, female

Heliophorus eventa, male
A Sino-Himalayan species known from N.Myanmar, N.Thailand, Laos, N.Vietnam, S.China
It is very localized in Vietnam (Lao Cai & Ha Giang Provinces)

Heliophorus brahma major, male - the well-named "Golden Sapphire"

Another male specimen
This nice Sino-Himalayan species occurs in N.India, N.Myanmar, N.Thailand, N.Vietnam, S.China (Yunnan at least). In Vietnam, it is recorded from Lao Cai, Ha Giang and Phu Tho Provinces (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016)

Abisara freda - a Sino-Himalayan Riodinid only recorded in Vietnam from the Hoang Lien Son range 

Abisara neophron - a widespread and locally common Indo-Malayan Riodinid
Subspecies present  in Vietnam is chelina 

Abisara echerius  - probably subsp. echerius known from northern areas along Chinese border, whereas subsp. paionea is widespread throughout the rest of the country

Vanessa cardui, undoubtedly the most widespread butterfly in the world

Male Parantica sita sita sipping nectar from Crassocephalum rubens
Particularly easy to see in this picture are the male alar androconial organ (sex brand) on the sub-tornal area of the hindwing

Athyma perius

Symbrethia lilaea

Notocrypta curvifascia on Crassocephalum rubens - more colourful than the individuals I usually see around Hanoi

Eurema blanda, mating pair

Acraea issoria larvae, found in abundance at all elevations

Monday, 6 February 2017

250. Parasarpa dudu dudu (The White Commodore)

Number: 250
Family: Nymphaliidae
Sub-Family: Limenitidiinae
Species: Parasarpa dudu dudu (Westwood, 1850)
Common name(s): The White Commodore
Photography location: Tam Dao (Vinh Phuc Prov.)

The genus Parasarpa comprising at least 6 species. According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 3 are currently known in Vietnam viz. P. dudu dudu, P. zayla and P. houlberti. The two last ones, which are Sino-Himalayan species, are limited to the extreme north-west of the country (Hoang Lien Son mountain range).

Parasarpa dudu, which occurs from N.India to Indonesia, is the most widespread species of the genus. It is recorded from North and central Vietnam (to Lam Dong Prov.).

 A worn Parasarpa dudu dudu resting on a leaf (Tam Dao/900m asl, August 2016)
I am a bit frustrated as I could not get better images...

The smell, and possibly the color, of my Chinese-made sandals were irresistible to this individual. I will surely buy another pair! It's often very difficult to get close enough to a butterfly to get a photo, but from time to time they come to you! This guy landed on my sandals (not the best background, yes I know...), but I've had others perch on my bag, my arm or even my motorbyke.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

249. Hypolimnas misippus (The Danaid Eggfly)

Number: 249
Family: Nymphaliidae
Sub-Family: Nymphaliinae
Species: Hypolimnas misippus (Linnaeus, 1764)
Common name(s): The Danaid Eggfly
Photography location: Hanoi City

The genus Hypolimnas comprises more than 30 species. It is represented in Vietnam by 2 species viz. bolina and misippus.

Hypolimnas misippus is a very widely distributed in  the tropics, native to Africa, Asia and Australia, and introduced to Caribbean islands and northern South America, and occasionally dispersing to the southern USA (Hoskins, 2012). The neotropical range may have been due to transport in slave trading ships (Butterflies and Moths of North America, 2016).

The female is one of the best examples of protective mimicry, resembling the unpalatable (to birds) Danaid Plain Tiger, Danaus chrysippusThe male however is quite different in appearance, being dark brown on the upperside, with circular white patches that reflect a deep purple sheen in bright sunlight. 

Hypolimnas misippus, male, Hanoi, November 2016
The male flies fast and somewhat erratically but settles frequently on bushes or small trees, to await passing females, ready to chase away any intruder. Like H. bolina, male H. misippus shows very strong territory habit. Whenever any butterfly fly into its territory, it chases away them aggressively, then returns back to the same spot

Same male specimen showing its underwing pattern

I have check out (with binoculars) many Danaus chrysippus in search of the female of H. misippus, but I have not been able to find a single one. She can be easily distinguished from its model by the HW without blackish spots around discal cell and scalloped marginal edge. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

248. Vanessa cardui cardui (The Painted Lady)

Number: 248
Family: Nymphaliidae
Sub-Family: Nymphaliinae
Species: Vanessa cardui cardui (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common name(s): The Painted Lady, The Cosmopolitan
Photography location: Tam Đường District (Lai Chau Prov.)

V. cardui is one of the most widespread of all butterflies, found on every continent except Antarctica (where no butterflies occur) .
Despite its incredible range, V. cardui is monotypic, i.e. there are not recognized subspecies. This probably reflects the fact that it is strongly migratory, a behavior that acts to inhibit localized population differentiation.
V. cardui is recorded in the North and central Vietnam (to Lam Dong Prov.) (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016).

 Vanessa cardui feeding on Crassocephalum rubens, Lai Chau Prov., January 2017

Same specimen

247. Pieris erutae montana (The Green-veined White s.l.)

Number: 247
Family: Pieriidae
Sub-Family: Pieriinae
Species: Pieris erutae montana Verity, 1908
Common name(s): The Green-veined White (sensu lato, no particular name?)
Photography location: Ô Quy Hô pass (Tam Đường District, Lai Chau Prov.)

According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 4 Pieris species are known to occur in Vietnam viz. P. canidia canidia, P. rapae orientalis, P. erutae montana & P. brassicae nepalensis - the latter only recorded in the extreme northern corner of the country (Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range), the other three more widespread (but unrecorded from the South).

Poujade (1888) described P. erutae from Tibet. The subsp. montana was described by Verity from N.-E.India (Sikkim). This taxon is also present in Myanmar, N.Thailand, Laos, N. & C. Vietnam, S.China. It is very similar to Pieris melete which ranges from northern India, China (Tibet, Yunnan...) to Korea and Japan, and certain races of P. napi (widespread across Europe and Asia as far as Japan, but doesn't occur in the Oriental Region).

Below some photos of P. erutae montana taken at high-altitude vegetable gardens of ethnic minority people, where the caterpillars feed on family Cruciferae like cabbages.

 Male Pieris erutae montana, below Ô Quy Hô pass, 1800m asl (Tam Đường District, Lai Chau Prov., January 2017)
The greeny-grey veins on the underside are, in fact, an illusion created by a subtle combination of yellow and black scales

Male Pieris erutae montana, upperwing

Female Pieris erutae montana, upperwing

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

246. Taxila dora

Number: 246
Family: Riodiniidae
Sub-Family: Riodiniinae
Species: Taxila dora (Fruhstorfer, 1904)
Common name(s): The Dora's Harlequin (?)
Photography locations: Tam Dao (Vinh Phuc Prov.)

Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016) listed 3 Taxila species in Vietnam viz. haquinus berthae, dora and hainana - the first one only recorded from the South.

Fruhstorfer described Taxila dora from two males, one from "Than-moi", Lang Son Prov. near the Chinese border, and the other from Chiem-Hoa, Tuyen Quang Prov., both locations in North Vietnam and north of the Red River.  

Taxila dora is a restricted-range species (Indochinese endemic) only recorded from N. Laos, N. & C. Vietnam (to Khanh Hoa Prov.). Can be encountered locally from sea level to 1700m in primary evergreen forest, and occasionally in secondary forest.

Male Taxila dora, Tam Dao, 900m asl (June 2016)

Another specimen, from Tam Dao foothills (July 2016)

245. Abisara freda (The Lesser Judy)

Number: 245
Family: Riodiniidae
Sub-Family: Riodiniinae
Species: Abisara freda Bennett, 1957
Common name(s): The Lesser Judy
Photography location: Ô Quy Hô pass (Tam Đường District, Lai Chau Prov.)

According to Monastyrskii & Devyatkin (2016), 11 Abisara species are currently known from Vietnam.
Abisara freda ranges from Myanmar through N.Thailand and N.Laos to N.Vietnam. In Vietnam, this Riodinid is only recorded from the Hoang Lien Son range (the Fansipan massif), especially Sa Pa District (Lao Cai Prov.). The butterfly fauna in this area is characterized by a great number of Sino-Himalayan species.

Abisara freda, photographed in scrub-shrub habitat below Ô Quy Hô pass, 1800m asl
(Tam Đường District, Lai Chau Prov., January 2017)

Same specimen