Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Cuc Phuong at the rainy season

Well, another trip to Cuc Phuong has yielded yet another species for my personal records. It had been raining all week and I was desperate for it to stop. The weather forecast was predicting rain, I decided to go anyway.
It was a rainy day, so most of butterflies were all hidden in the vegetation. Quickly, I have realised that it would be a challenging - and very probably not productive - trip. Even the most common and conspicuous species (i.e. Appias spp., Papilio spp., Euploea spp., Tirumala spp. Ideopsis spp....) were small in number.

I decided to focuse on the forest edge (roadside before Mac lake, botanical gardens), instead of the forest interior - too gloomy for photo. The flowering plants (mainly Bidens) here attracted a good diversity of species but few individuals, mostly common species but also some unexpected goodies such as the Lycaenids Suasa lisides, Sinthusa chandrana, Hypolycaena othona, Rapala cf. suffusa - all new for me.

I recorded around 80 species, so about 75% of the number of species I saw 2 months ago during the same period of time (1,5 day), among them five news species for me (and another which I don't know what it is). It seems very likely that heavy rains over the past few weeks* increase the mortality of caterpillar, pupae and adults, hence the low abundance of butterflies. The cooler and wetter weather affect also the detectability of many species. But it's very likely that the abundance and species richness can also fluctuated strongly between days, i.e. between overcast and sunny days.

*from the Meterological Station data, it was reported that Northern Vietnam received the last 2 months an above average rainfall.

With this trip, I finally get to that magical 300 species barrier, i.e. 300 species of butterflies photographed in Vietnam (all in the North).
300 species up... 400 here I come. Could take some time though!... unless I travel further south.

Checklist of the species spotted at the location (1,5 day, 15/16th July 2017): 

Papilio nephelus ++
Papilio helenus ++
Papilio polytes +
Papilio paris +
Graphium sarpedon ++
Graphium doson ++
Lamproptera curius +
Lamproptera meges ++

Appias lyncida +++
Appias  albina ++
Appias galba +
Cepora nadina +++
Cepora nerissa +++
Ixias pyrene ++
Eurema spp. ++
Catopsilia pomona +++

Danaus genutia ++
Euploea mulciber ++
Parantica aglea +
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Ideopsis similis ++
Tirumala septentrionis +
Elymnias hypermnestra +
Lethe confusa +
Mycalesis spp. +++
Mycalesis malsara ++
Ypthima baldus +++
Ariadne ariadne +
Athyma selenophora +
Cupha erymanthis +++
Rohana sp. +
Vagrans egista +
Symbrethia lilaea ++
Juniona almana ++
Juniona atlites ++
Juniona iphita ++
Terinos clarissa +

Kallima "inachus" +
Hypolimnias bolina ++
Cyrestis thyodamas +
Cyrestis cocles +
Cyrestis themire +++
Neptis spp. ++
Pantoporia sp. +
Polyura athamas +
Tanaecia julii +
Libythea sp. +

Zemeros flegyas ++
Abisara echerius +

Curetis bulis ++
Jamides celeno +++
Heliophorus sp.  ++
Acytolepis puspa +++
Ionolyce helicon +++
Anthene emolus +
Prosotas dubiosa +++
Prosotas nora +++
Cigaritis lohita +
Neopithecops zalmora  +
Surendra quercetorum +
Hypolycaena amasa +++
Hypolycaena othona +
Rapala cf. suffusa +
Suasa lisides +
Sinthusa chandrana +

Arnetta atkinsoni +++ 
Polytremis lubricans + 
Borbo cinnara +
Astictopterus jama ++ 
Notocrypta curvifascia +
Cupitha purreea + 
Polytremis lubricans +
Potanthus/Telicota ssp. ++

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

Papilio paris
A very common Papilio with broad habitat tolerance, but I never feel bored to shoot this species over and over

Mud-puddling Graphium sarpedon - also a very common Papilionidae

Graphium sarpedon caught by camouflaged Crab Spider (Thomisus sp., Thomisidae)
This spiders are formidable hunters as their camouflage helps them blend in perfectly and ambush preys much bigger than them. I left feeling sorry for the poor butterfly but its just part of nature

Appias lyncida, male

Appias galba, female

Cepora nerissa 
Two species of  Cepora can be seen in N.Vietnam - nerissa and nadina, both very common. The third one present in Vietnam is iudith, but it is only recorded from the South of the country

A Jeweled Flower Mantis (Creobroter sp., very likely the widespread C. gemmatus) dines on an Euploea sp.. Like the Crab Spider, this mantis is a flower-dwelling ambush predator

Here, the prey is Tirumala septentrionis

And here, Danaus genutia - Flower Mantis is an extremely efficient ambush predator!

Ypthima baldus - mating pair
At least 5 species of Ypthima have been recorded at Cuc Phuong (baldus, singorensis, praenubila, huebneri, imitans). Positive identification of field photographed individuals is often a tricky business, because either the upperside or underside of an individual may not be available

Cupha erymanthis mud-puddling with Cyretis cocles and C. themire
Cupha erymanthis is a very common species, but its active and skittish nature make it challenging to shoot at close range. Occasionally, however, when it's attracted to sweat and other food sources that it likes, the Rustic becomes more cooperative and allows the photographer to approach it

A nectaring Cyretis themire - more often seen puddling

Anthene emolus

Neopithecops zalmora
This small species is not uncommon and is usually observed alongside shady trails. Its flight is typically feeble and erratic  

Prosotas nora 
A common Lycaenid to be found along forested paths and roadsides where a big number of males can be found congregating at moist spots. According to Monastyrskii  & Devyatkin (2016), 7 Prosotas species are currently known in Vietnam: aluta, bhutea, gracilis, lutea, pia, nora & dubiosa - the 2 latter being the most widespread and also the only ones recorded in the north of the country

Ionolyce helicon
Note the straight termen of both wings and the pointed apex of the forewing - hence its English name, the "Pointed Lineblue"

Cigaritis lohita 
The genus Cigaritis is represented in Vietnam by 8 species viz. lohita, syama, seliga, vulcanus, vixinga, gigas, leechi & evansii (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016)

Suasa lisides - one of the highlights of this trip

Sinthusa chandrana

Rapala cf. suffusa, female

Hypolycaena othona - a new species for me and my third Hypolycaena photographed in Vietnam
This genus is represented in Vietnam by 5 species viz. erylus, kina, amasa, thecloides and othona (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016)

Hypolycaena amasa - a common Lycaenid
The butterfly is quite a sight to behold when it flies with its long white tails trailing elegantly behind

Arnetta atkinsoni - the Hesperid butterfly I encountered the most during this trip

Cupitha purreea
Note the well camouflaged Crab Spider sitting in ambush, almost invisible amongst the white petals

Polytremis lubricans
It has a characteristic rich ochreous brown underside colour. The number of HW spots visible varies greatly & may be almost absent

Borbo cinnara

I also found some new Orthoptera for my personal list, among them this stunning Aularches miliaris:


Friday, 16 June 2017

Trip to Huu Lien N.R.

Established in 1986 for the purpose of conserving limestone forests and Musk deer, Moschus  berezovskii, the Huu Lien Nature Reserve is just 110 kilometers northeast of Hanoi, in Lang Son province, and is accessible by a 2,5 hours motorbike trip.

Huu Lien Nature Reserve includes all of Huu Lien commune and a part of Yen Thinh commune, Huu Lung district. The landscape is dominated by limestone karst. The local population comprised of members of the Kinh, Tay, Nung and Dao ethnic groups. They have a high level of dependence on forest resources, which they use for construction materials, food and medicine. Despite the legal protected status, the reserve face significant threats. Of particular concern are overexploitation of natural resources and habitat loss - the sound of chainsaws is moaning, unending...

In 2000, Frontier-Vietnam and IEBR conducted a biodiversity survey of Huu Lien Nature Reserve, focused on vegetation, birds, lepidopterans and amphibians (Furey et al., 2002). A total of 181 butterflies species were recorded during the survey undertaken between April and September 2000, of which 3 new to science (Lethe philesanoides, L. huongii and Scobura eximia)!

Huu Lien belongs to the "Viet Bac" (=northeastern Vietnam) karst zone. Confined to Vietnam east of the Red River, and extending into southern China,  this karst zone is the largest of at least five distinct limestone regions in Vietnam. This "Viet Bac" karst zone support high levels of endemism, not only for butterflies but also for amphibians, reptiles, mammals... Some new genera have been discovered in the past few decades at Huu Lien: Tonkinomys (Muridae rodent), Matticnemis (Odonata, Platycnemididae).

Early in June, I was back to Huu Lien, a place I have visited many times, mainly for dragonflies. Survey mostly occurs along the trails to and around Mo Ang waterfall (Tan Lai village, alt. 250-300 m asl) where some nice patches of 'pristine' forest remain.
Highlights: Byasa confusus mansonensis, Papilio castor, Meandrusa payeni langsonensis, Elymnias malelas, Faunis excelsa, Lethe philesanoides/philesana, Celaenorrhinus patula.

Checklist of the species spotted at the location (two days, June 4+10, 2017): 

Troides aeacus ++
Byasa confusus +++
Pachiolpta aristolochiae +++
Atrophaneura aidoneus ++
Papilio castor ++
Papilio demoleus +
Papilio nephelus +++
Papilio helenus +++
Papilio polytes +++
Papilio memnon +++
Papilio protenor +++
Papilio paris ++
Papilio bianor +
Meandrusa payeni +
Graphium sarpedon +
Graphium doson +
Graphium agamemnon ++
Lamproptera curius +++
Lamproptera meges +

Pieris canidia +
Appias albina +++
Appias galba ++
Cepora nadina ++
Cepora nerissa ++
Ixias pyrene ++
Eurema blanda ++
Eurema hecabe ++
Eurema andersonii ++
Catopsilia pomona +++

Thauria lathyi  ++
Thaumantis diores +
Danaus genutia ++
Ideopsis vulgaris +
Tirumala limniace +
Parantica aglea +
Euploea mulciber ++
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Euploea sylvester ++
Elymnias malelas +
Lethe philesanoides/philesana +
Melanitis leda +
Ypthima sp.+++
Mycalesis inopia +
Mycalesis perseoides +
Faunis excelsa ++
Faunis eumeus +

Stichophtalma fruhstorferi +
Penthema michallati +
Ariadne ariadne ++
Cethosia cyane ++
Cethosia  biblis +
Vindula erota +++
Cirrochroa tyche +
Terinos clarissa ++
Cyretis themire +++
Symbrethia lilaea +++
Juniona almana ++
Juniona atlites ++
Kallima "inachus" +
Neptis spp. ++
Limenitis sulpitia +
Phaedyma columella +
Athyma ranga ++
Moduza procris +
Euthalia lubentina +

Zemeros flegyas ++

Caleta roxus +
Pseudozizeeria maha +
Cigaritis lohita +
Mahathala ameria +
Jamides bochus +
Neopithecops zalmora ++
Prosotas nora +++
Prosotas dubiosa +++
Nacaduba kurava +
Anthene emolus +++
Tongeia potanini +
Yasoda tripunctata +

Hasora badra +++
Tagiades sp. +
Celaenorrhinus patula +
Celaenorrhinus sp. +
Gangara thyrsis +
Astictopterus jama ++
Isoteinon lamprospilus +
Notocrypta curvifascia +
Notocrypta paralysos +
Scobura coniata +
Thoressa submacula  +
Halpe cf. paupera +

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

Huu Lien landscape
All the Papilionids below were photographed around the Lantana thickets at the feet of karst towers

Troides aeacus, male
The 2 species of Troides recorded in Vietnam (helena and aeacus) are present on both the Convention on   International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Vietnamese Red List (Vat 2007) 

Meandrusa payeni langsonensis, male, nectaring in early morning sun at the forest edge

Meandrusa payeni langsonensis occurs in N. and C. Vietnam but is rarely seen in nature, as it does not congregate with other butterflies when visiting water

Meandrusa payeni langsonensis, same individual, showing its upperside

Byasa confusus mansonensis, female
The genus Byasa is represented in Vietnam by 8 species viz. crassipes, polyeuctes, dasarada, adamsoni, latreillei, hedistus, nevilli & confusus (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016). B. confusus mansonensis is recorded from N.Vietnam, S.-E. & C. China, Taiwan. It appears to be very local in occurrence in Vietnam (recorded, at least, from Mt. Mau Son, Huu Lien N.R., Mt. Tam Dao)

Byasa confusus mansonensis, female
The female is bigger than male, its upperwings are yellowish-brown, whereas those of the male are black

Byasa confusus mansonensis, male

Atrophaneura aidoneus

Pachiolpta aristolochiae  
The red body, slow peculiar flight, bright colouration and pattern of the wings are meant to indicate to predators that this butterfly is inedible, being well protected by the poisons it has sequestered from its larval food plant. It also emits a nasty smelling substance when handled to further enhance its unappealing qualities. Hence it is rarely attacked by predators, a strategy so successful, that edible butterflies have evolved to mimic it, the classic example being that of the female form stichius of Papilio polytes

Papilio polytes, mimetic female displaying the stichius form
This form mimics the Common Rose Pachliopta aristolochiae but with an entirely black body

Papilio polytes, non-mimetic form cyrus  

Papilio castor dioscurus, courtship (male on the left)
The form dioscurus has been described by Jordan from four males collected by Fruhstorfer at "Than Moi", Tonkin [= North Vietnam]. This form show incomplete hindwing discal band (spaces 4-7)

Papilio castor (form mahadeva?), female
Not the complete hindwing discal band

Papilio bianor gladiator

Papilio bianor gladiator

Papilio protenor

Papilio memnon, male

Papilio helenus

Papilio nephelus chaon, courtship - female on the right

Papilio demoleus

Graphium agamemnon

Lamproptera curius

This puddling congregation (mostly Cepora nadina + A. albina, Eurema sp.) was one of the rare I spotted during this trip

Elymnias malelas - not the best shot in the world, but enough for a positive ID...

Lethe philesanoides or L. philesana, female - seems to be the former but only genitalia analysis may confirm this
The type locality of L. philesanoides is Huu Lien

Mycalesis inopia
Until recently, Mycalesis inopia was considered to be a northern Vietnam endemic. Now it is known from Laos, N. & C. Vietnam, S. China, Taiwan. The Type Locality is "Than Moi ; Chiem-Hoa, Tonkin" (this site is close to Huu Lien N.R.)

Faunis excelsa, female
This rather rare species, which appears to be restricted to less disturbed forest habitats, is known from a handful of localities in Vietnam. Also present in E.Laos and S.China (Guangxi)

Faunis excelsa flapping wings, male (left) and female (right)
Female upperwings are more contrasted (cream and pale brownish, duller at FW tip)

Stichophtalma fruhstorferi

Penthema michallati - considered to be a northern Vietnam endemic

Penthema michallati
This species occurs in 2 forms flying together - the form pomponia (below) is rarer

Penthema michallati form pomponia feeding on rotten fruits - upper and underwings much less marked than that of f. michallati
Under this fruiting tree, I spotted a nice selection of Amathusids viz. Thauria lathyi, Thaumantis diores, Stichophtalma fruhstorferi, Faunis excelsa, F. eumeus

Penthema michallati form pomponia

 Limenitis sulpitia - only recorded in Vietnam from Bac Kan, Lang Son and Ha Giang Prov.

Kallima "inachus" - that's what I call camouflage!
Why does the butterfly look like that?  Because then the predator leaves it alone :)

Moduza procris 

A Leopard Lacewing (Cethosia cyane) showing its underside

Euthalia lubentina sipping juice on fruits

Zemeros flegyas

Mahathala ameria

Neopithecops zalmora
 Very similar to Pithecops corvus but differs in the absence of the 2 subcostal black spots on UnF

Nacaduba kurava, female

Hasora badra - I am happy with this shot taken in natural light
90% of the images of this species on the internet have been taken with flash, resulting a 'psychedelic' effect (violet tinge too exacerbated)

Celaenorrhinus patula 

Celaenorrhinus sp.
Belongs to the aurivittata-group but the three yellow apical spots in spaces 6-8 are arranged in a very different pattern than C. vietnamicus, a species I have seen many times at Ba Vi, and also C. aurivittata

Notocrypta curvifascia, the Restricted Demon - on this shot this name fits him like a glove... 
The genus Notocrypta (the "Demons") comprises 13 species, among them 4 have been recorded in Vietnam: N. paralysos asawa, N. clavata theba, N. curvifascia curvifascia & N. feisthamelii alysos (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2016) 

Isoteinon lamprospilus formosanus

Scobura coniata

Thoressa submacula 

Halpe cf. paupera

Moth caterpillars (Tinolius sp.) with elaborated "clothing"

Hemielimaea nigerrima, a stunning black katydid described from "Than-Moi"/Tonkin
Vietnamese Orthoptera fauna is an interesting but hard group, largely inaccessible to amateur entomologists (except maybe Acrididae)

Matticnemis doi, female - a Huu Lien specialty (Type Locality, never recorded elsewhere)
Described in 2012 as Platycnemis doi, subsequently placed in the new genus Matticnemis. It is the sole species in this genus. All records of this species occured along a c.500m long forest trail!