Hvar's Butterflies

Marion Podolski casts her expert artistic eye over Hvar's butterflies.

Hvar butterfly at work, July 2016 Hvar butterfly at work, July 2016 Vivian Grisogono

Butterflies always seem so fragile, so transient. So it came as quite the surprise when I read that (a) there are butterfly fossils dating back around 56 million years, and (b) the Painted Lady appears to hold the record for the longest return migration, from Africa to the Arctic circle and back!

Painted lady

Vanessa cardui ~ Painted lady ~ Stričkovac

This photograph was taken at Vorh on Hvar, altitude around 500 metres. European ivy is known for having flowers high in nectar, and was swarming with butterflies and bees in September. The Painted lady migrates from North Africa and the Mediterranean northwards in the springtime, and southwards in the autumn. The 9,000 mile round trip between tropical Africa and the Arctic circle may take as many as 6 generations! Was this butterfly on a refuelling stop for its Autumn migration?

This summer I’ve been more aware of butterflies on Hvar, possibly due to my recent interest in wildflowers. It’s a good sign, as flowers and butterflies mean a healthy ecosystem. Though sometimes they were nowhere near any flowers!

Red admiral

Vanessa atalanta ~ Red Admiral ~ Ljepokrili admiral

As I was sitting on the Soline beach near Vrboska, painting with my art group, this visitor was very interested in my paintbox! Luckily I had my phone to hand, and managed to capture the moment! And as I didn’t really feel that paints were proper nourishment, being toxic and all, I closed up the box, so it decided to try some wine instead!

Red admiral likes a glass of wine

My Red admiral likes a glass of wine!

While some (adult) butterflies live only for a few days, other species survive for almost a full year. Those living longer can feed on nectar from flowers, and they are in fact important pollinators for some kinds of plants. Although they can’t carry as much pollen as bees, they are able to take it over longer distances. They’ll also sip water (and wine!), are sometimes  attracted to dung, rotting fruit, or the salt in human sweat for other essential minerals and nutrients. Their “taste” receptors are apparently located on their feet, so they can determine whether a leaf is suitable for laying eggs on (ie the caterpillar kids can eat it!)

Red admiral underside

Red admiral underside

I spotted this Red admiral near the peak of Sv Nikola, up in the high country (628 metres). Good view of the underside of the wing. Red admirals also migrate, spending summer in northern Europe, and winter near the Mediterranean.

In Croatian, a butterfly is called a leptir, for once easy to remember as it’s clearly related to lepidoptera (from the ancient Greek  lepís=scale + pterón=wing). It’s less certain why the English saw any association with butter, though the name has been around for some time in old Dutch and German. Were there only yellow butterflies in northern Europe, I wonder?

Two-tailed pasha also going for my wine

Charaxes jasius ~ Two-Tailed Pasha ~ vještica

Another butterfly that was keen to share our wine was this Two-tailed Pasha with exceptional taste at restaurant Laganini on Palmižana! It did, in fact, take a dive headfirst into my glass and had to be rescued at the expense of the wine!

Two-tailed pasha

Two-Tailed Pasha enjoying some lemon sorbet

A fine butterfly, and a great poser with his proboscis stuck into a drop of lemon sorbet (with vodka and prosecco) for a good long drink! Two-tailed pashas produce two generations in a season, flying May/June and August/October. Clearly, they also like a drink!

Two-tailed pasha underside

Two-tailed pasha underside and clear view of head

The beautiful colour of butterfly wings is due to the scales. While the dark blacks and browns are melanin pigments, and yellows come from uric acid and flavones, the other bright blues, greens, reds and iridescence are all caused by the structure of the scales and hairs.

Cardinal

Argynnis pandora ~ Cardinal ~ Pandorin šarenac

Meanwhile, back at the popular ivy flowers, was this lovely Cardinal which is a fairly common butterfly around southern Europe from April to September. Sadly the photograph doesn’t quite do justice to the shimmer of that pale green colour. Very pretty in real life!

Cardinal in Stari Grad

Cardinal in Stari Grad

The second Cardinal was spotted in a garden in Stari Grad. Good view of the antennae, and the proboscis stuck into the flower. It looks to have only 4 legs, but that’s apparently normal for some types of butterflies, the front two legs are much reduced.

Wall brown

Lasiommata megera ~ Wall Brown ~ mali pjegavac

Hmmm, the field notes say the Wall brown is very alert and difficult to approach for taking photos – well, that’s certainly true! This guy was spotted beside the path on the way up to Sv Nikola, and this is the best photograph I could manage!

A recent (2011-13) study of butterflies on Hvar recorded 49 species, some of which are very rare within Croatia. All in all, 57 species have been recorded on Hvar, giving it 4th place among the islands for butterfly diversity. I have a long way to go to spot all those!

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

© Marion Podolski 2016

More about Croatia’s butterflies:

Project Noah: Butterflies and Moths of Croatia

Euro Butterflies by Matt Rowlings

Wikipedia list of butterflies and moths in Croatia

Annoted list of Croatian butterflies with vernacular names (PDF file for download)

Contribution to the knowledge of the butterfly fauna on the Adriatic island of Hvar, Croatia

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from Marion's blog Go Hvar, Ramblings about a far island. Visit the blog for all kinds of information about Hvar, from artistic to epicurean!

You are here: Home Nature Watch Hvar's Butterflies

Eco Environment News feeds

  • ‘Shocking’ study reveals plastic contaminates our skies as well as the oceans, say scientists

    Microplastic can escape from polluted waters via flying insects, new research has revealed, contaminating new environments and threatening birds and other creatures that eat the insects.

    Scientists fed microplastics to mosquito larvae, which live in water, but found that the particles remained inside the animals as they transformed into flying adults. Other recent research found that half of the mayfly and caddisfly larvae in rivers in Wales contained microplastics.

    Continue reading...

  • Initiative lays out practical steps we can all take to help halt destruction of species and habitats in Britain

    Replanting hedgerows, including birdboxes on all new-build homes, rewilding uplands and an end to seal culling: these are among demands of the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, a new initiative aimed at halting the drastic decline in British wildlife.

    The manifesto has been drawn up by the naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, with the aid of 17 independent experts and scientists. They warned that people are sleepwalking into an “ecological apocalypse”, but said everyone could take practical steps themselves, and campaign for broader measures that could yet avert the wholesale destruction of species and habitats.

    Continue reading...

  • Plenty of sunshine is needed to bring out the intense reds and yellows from the leaves, and this year we’re set for a dazzling display

    Autumn colour is perhaps the most striking of nature’s seasonal displays, but the vividness of the annual spectacle is largely dependent on good environmental conditions. This year, following a fine summer and with an Indian summer predicted, we look to be on course for a dazzling display that could trump recent years and extend well into November.

    Shorter daylight hours and colder nights are what trigger leaf drop – or senescence – but frost, like rain, can damage leaves and cause early leaf fall. Plenty of sunshine is needed to encourage concentrations of colour pigments which help to intensify leaf colour.

    Continue reading...

  • Hot weather and conservation drive help once-extinct insect make dramatic comeback

    A previously extinct butterfly, the large blue, has enjoyed its best UK summer on record thanks to the lovely weather and a determined conservation effort on hills in the West Country of England.

    The large blue, a popular specimen among Victorian collectors, was declared extinct in Britain in the 1970sbut has since made a dramatic comeback.

    Continue reading...

  • Risk in over-50s increases by 40% where highest nitrogen oxide levels exist, study shows

    Air pollution may increase the chance of developing dementia, a study has suggested, in fresh evidence that the health of people of all ages is at risk from breathing dirty air.

    People over 50 in areas with the highest levels of nitrogen oxide in the air showed a 40% greater risk of developing dementia than those with the least NOx pollution, according to the research, based on data from London.

    Continue reading...

  • Newly found documents from the 1980s show that fossil fuel companies privately predicted the global damage that would be caused by their products.

    One day in 1961, an American economist named Daniel Ellsberg stumbled across a piece of paper with apocalyptic implications. Ellsberg, who was advising the US government on its secret nuclear war plans, had discovered a document that contained an official estimate of the death toll in a preemptive “first strike” on China and the Soviet Union: 300 million in those countries, and double that globally.

    Ellsberg was troubled that such a plan existed; years later, he tried to leak the details of nuclear annihilation to the public. Although his attempt failed, Ellsberg would become famous instead for leaking what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers – the US government’s secret history of its military intervention in Vietnam.

    Continue reading...

  • BMW, Daimler, VW, Audi and Porsche suspected of colluding to limit clean technology

    Brussels has launched an anti-trust investigation into whether BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, known as the “circle of five”, colluded to limit the development of clean emission technology.

    The German car manufacturers are suspected of agreeing not to compete against each other in the roll-out of anti-pollution systems for petrol and diesel passenger cars.

    Continue reading...

  • Invaders continue to seize land within the Chaparrí ecological reserve, one of Peru’s most biodiverse forests

    Shortly after sunset, along an isolated stretch of highway leading out of a dusty hamlet in northern Peru, a band of five weary farmers clad in reflective neon vests and armed with traditional whips made of bull penises set out on a solemn march.

    The Ronderos – self-governing peasant patrols – are resuming their nightly rounds five months after the brutal killing of their lieutenant governor, Napoléon Tarrillo Astonitas.

    Continue reading...

  • On a planet of billions, nine represent the strong minority battling murder in the global corruption of land rights

    Individually, they are stories of courage and tragedy. Together, they tell a tale of a natural world under ever more violent assault.

    The portraits in this series are of nine people who are risking their lives to defend the land and environment in some of the planet’s most remote or conflict-riven regions.

    Continue reading...

  • Nearly two years after the signing of a historic peace agreement, violence in the country continues

    Enrique Fernández cannot remember the last night he slept peacefully.

    He is tall and heavyset, and does not look like someone who scares easily, but as he sits in his humble rented home in western Colombia, his eyes dart nervously from left to right, scanning for any threat.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds