On 1st February 2007, Butterfly Conservation's new EUROPEAN INTERESTS GROUP launched its website. The objects of the new group, which was officially inaugurated at BC's AGM last November, are explained on the website.


I hope to contribute some articles to the twice-yearly web newsletter that will be emailed to members of the EIG. We plan to describe good places to see butterflies (and moths) in Europe. This happens to be the subject of a new book I am working on anyway! Some of the articles and accompanying photos will reproduced below to give you a taster.
Swallowtails in Provence is an article on continental Swallowtails (Papilio machaon gorganus) found on the summit of Mount Ventoux in northern Provence. Other butterflies to see there are Scarce Swallowtails (Iphiclides podalirius), Black-veined Whites (Aporia crataegi), and Apollos (Parnassius apollo). The recommended time to go is mid-June, but any time during the summer is good.
Hill-topping explained
In the above article, I ask whether anyone can explain the well-known hill-topping behavour of continental Swallowtails. Dr Torben B Larsen has emailed a very convincing explanation, supported by his personal observations of butterfly mating behaviour in West Africa. This makes me wonder whether Purple Emperors seek the highest point of a master tree in order to follow the same mating strategy. Can anyone help with that?
Gavarnie Blues (Agriades pyrenaicus) is an article on this rare, blue species, found only in the Gavarnie area of the Pyrenees. There are also many other species to discover in the flower-rich meadows of the high Pyrenees in southern France. The number of butterflies per square metre, the range of different species, and the ease of seeing them provides a wonderful experience. I recommend a visit.
De Vlinderstichting
To mark its 25th anniversary, Dutch Butterfly Conservation (De Vlinderstichting) is organising a conference on the Future of Butterflies in Europe to be held in Holland in April 2008. Details are on the conference website. The speakers will include Chris Thomas (climate change and species ranges), Jeremy Thomas (species interactions) and Martin Warren (policy).
I am going to show pictures of some of the trickier European species and ask for help in identifying them. Clouded Yellows will be coming first - but which Clouded Yellow species are they? Can you help? Here is the first.
1. First, here are two Clouded Yellows Colias croceus photographed at Lens, Switzerland, in July 2006. No doubt that these are Clouded Yellows.
2a. But here is one of many other, lighter butterflies at the same place and time, and photographed with the same camera settings.

2b. The specimen below is another view of the one above, right, but taken from a different angle. Is it form helice of Colias croceus or is it ab. helicina, or something else? The black border showing through on the hind wings in the upper view suggests that it is not the Pale Clouded Yellow, Colias hyale. What do you think?

I would like to summarise the consensus, if there is one, later on this page.
3. The pair of Clouded Yellows below were photographed in Provence in June 2006. The male is above.
4. Here is a picture of another female Clouded Yellow taken at the same time and place as those on the left. The "holes" in the dark edging show through in the sunlight. Also the orange on the upper side of the forewings shines through.

5. In contrast, I think that the next photo shows 2 female (at left) and 2 male (at right) Berger's Clouded Yellows, Colias alfacariensis. It was taken at the Aggtelek National Park in Hungary in late July 2006. They have virtually no dark edging to the upper surfaces of their hind wings. The males, particularly, are a bright lemon yellow without the orange tint that is characteristic of Clouded Yellows. Do you agree?

6a. The next was, I thought originally, a female Pale Clouded Yellow, Colias hyale. The photos were taken in Provence in June 2006. I was able to take the same butterfly in flight and resting.
6b. However there is dark edging to the upper surface of the hind wing and now I think that this is not Colias hyale but one of the lighter sub-species of Colias croceus - do you agree?

7a For comparison here are two views of a female Berger's Clouded Yellow, Colias alfacariensis, photographed at the same place and time as 6a and 6b.
7b The narrower, broken dark edging to the upper-surface of the hind wings is a good guide, as is the (relatively) bright orange spot.

8a Next are two pictures of a male Clouded Yellow, photographed at Gunpowder Park, Essex, in July 2004.
7a The dark edging on both wings shows through clearly.

9a The two images below are from Lens, Switzerland in early July 2006.
9b They definitely have slightly narrower dark edging on their hind wings than the Clouded Yellows above. Are they Pale Clouded Yellows?