Following on from my last butterfly post from Kefalonia.
Walking through the village of Assos a new butterfly species introduced itself to me, the Southern Comma Polygonia egea. A paler, less heavily marked (but perhaps slightly brighter orange) version of our native Comma Polygonia c-album. For a comparison see my previous posts a female comma and spiced orange.
Well it certainly liked the heat, happily basking in the full afternoon sun. Usually on the tarmac or on the whitewashed walls, like the one pictured here, caught between the shadows. I noticed that the underside was slightly paler and less cryptically marked than our indigenous species and the characteristic white marking on the underwing was more silvery and less like a comma and more like a squashed letter ‘Y’.
Lasiommata maera – male
While I was looking through my photos of Wall Brown butterflies from Kefalonia for my previous post The megera I noticed that one of them looked slightly different. As you can see this one is distinctly darker and less heavily marked and so at first I thought it might be an aberration. But then it occurred to me that it might actually be another species. I was right, it’s the Large Wall Brown Lasiommata maera a male in this instance and a new species for me. I must admit I hadn’t really noticed when I took the photo. But even if I had, minus my reference books and with no internet it would have been difficult to get confirmation.
Interestingly in this species it is the female that is the more colourful of the two. See more pictures here at Matt Rowlings informative website http://www.eurobutterflies.com
But this is a species that has been seen in Britain, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire but not since 1931 and even then it is suspected these were an accidental introduction.
In Greek mythology Maera was the hound of Erigone, daughter of Icarus, who after death was turned into the dog star, Procyon which is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor.
Polygonia egea – male
In an earlier post I mentioned my early morning walks in Kefalonia. I often get up really early when on holiday as the light is less harsh and as it is marginally cooler, insects can be more settled and easier to photograph. Although, that said, in Kefalonia even at first light it was still way into the twenties. So on quite a few mornings dawn saw me make the steep climb up through the pine trees to the ancient hill fortress overlooking the pretty fishing village of Assos.
It was always worth getting out of bed though as the castle was ‘the place’ for butterflies and one of the ruined bastions proved to be a real hot spot for the Wall Lasiommata megera which loves to bask on walls, rocks, stones and bare ground. This is a butterfly we get here in Wiltshire, see my earlier post here but it’s not one I’ve seen so far this year. The Wall, or Wall Brown as it is sometimes known, is fairly widely distributed in England, I’ve seen it way up in Northumbria for example but it rarely occurs in large numbers. In the last decade or so it has declined substantially due to a continuing loss of habitat and it is now a priority species for conservation. So it was a blessing to see so many and have the time to study them in detail.
Often it was just me and the Megera, these mythical daughters of Creon, king of Thebes. Under the shade of an obliging olive tree I spent many peaceful hours watching these orange and brown furies flit in and out of the sunlight. The only sounds the over excited squeals of alpine swifts above my head and the distant crashing of waves on the rocks far below.
The slight gap in posts is due to the fact that I had to jet off to the Greek island of Kefalonia to fix my good friend Captain Corelli’s mandolin. Whilst staying in the charming harbour village of Assos I was lucky enough to get a photo of this fabulous Old World Swallowtail Papilio machaon and its equally stunning caterpillar, see photo at end of post. All it took was an early morning trek up a mountain to a small fortress built in 1593 by the Venetians.
It may surprise some readers to learn that that this spectacular insect can be seen here in England. Although the British species, Papilio machaon britannicus is restricted to the Norfolk Broads and is now one of our rarest butterflies, partly due to the distribution of the sole larval foodplant, Milk-parsley Peucedanum palustre.
In comparison britannicus is slightly smaller, darker and more strongly marked.