I was discussing a topic for another article on butterflies with Paolo Candotti, when he suggested a look at our ten most often-seen butterflies. What a good idea, I thought! And with modern technology to help, it was quite easy to track them down.
Paolo put me in touch with Peter Spence who was working on an article on the nesting habits of the top ten birds of our area. Peter told me that he was working on Pentad 2945_3045, which covers Kloof, and I simply asked René Navarro of the Animal Demography Unit of the University of Cape Town to give me a butterfly list for this pentad.
A pentad is an area of ground bounded by five minutes of latitude and longitude. There are nine pentads in a Quarter-Degree Grid Square (QDGS), which is the unit of measurement used by our LepiMAP Virtual Museum (VM). This project allows anyone who can photograph a butterfly or moth to upload the image to an online database. There are thousands of species of Lepidoptera in South Africa, most of which are little-known and difficult to identify. The classical ‘butterflies’ are the easiest to determine, so we have a good record of these. But the fun of LepiMAPPING lies not only in getting an ID for easy species, but also in the thrilling prospect of discovering something new…
We have many local Citizen-scientists logging butterfly and moth data in the LepiMAP VM. As a result, the Kloof pentad has One of them, Mark Liptrot, keeps up the Kloof Conservancy website’s butterfly list – which currently sits at 149 species. René’s list numbered 187 species, with 1800 records – which means we have some room for manoeuvre!
So what are our ‘Top Ten’? Well, starting at no 10…
10. Citrus Swallowtail
9. Common Mother-of-Pearl
8. Blood-red Acraea
7. Sooty Blue (or African Grass Blue)
Zizeeria knysna knysna
6. Blue Pansy
Junonia oenone oenone
5. African Migrant
4. African Monarch
Danaus chrysippus orientis
3. Bush Bronze
2. Common Hottentot Skipper
Gegenes niso niso
1. Common Bush Brown
Bicyclus safitza safitza
Most of these butterflies can be seen in the book I have just written with Garden Designer, Lindsay Gray, Gardening for Butterflies (Struik Nature). The book shows you how to structure and plant your garden to attract local butterflies to it. It covers the butterflies and moths most often seen in gardens of SA, with their early stages and host-plants. In Kloof we are fortunate to have several parks and a large nature reserve in our midst, acting as reservoirs for butterflies. So it isn’t difficult to build up a large garden population. In this way your property becomes an extension of the nature reserves, and helps maintain our butterfly and moth biodiversity.
Talking of biodiversity, the aforementioned ‘LepiMAP’ is a joint venture between the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa an d the ADU, which provided the information underlying this article. It was born from the SA Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA) which started up the Virtual Museum from which most of the data was gathered. Anyone who can handle a digital camera and an internet connection can submit data to LepiMAP, and we call on all to do so. It is the main means by which we monitor and measure our butterfly and moth biodiversity.
Recently, LepSoc and the SA National Biodiversity Institute, SANBI, have introduced a new partnership, SALCA – the SA Lepidoptera Conservation Assessment. This forms part of SANBI’s new National Biodiversity Assessment for all lifeforms, due in 2018. As far as butterflies and moths are concerned, it will draw on several data sources, including LepiMAP. It is particularly appropriate because it sets out to identify ‘development no-go zones’, which have particularly rich biodiversity and concentrations of threatened or rare species. So we need you all to go out and LepiMAP – especially in areas that are under-represented in the data. You can read more by going to the LepiMAP page, or by visiting the LepiMAP Facebook page.