Successful LepSoc field trip to end 2020

In what has become an annual event, LepSoc Africa hosted a field trip focused on butterflies on 12 December 2020.

Jeremy Dobson, net and interested spectators. Gerrit van Ede spots something in the undergrowth at the back (Photograph: Lenbè Smit)

The LepSoc field trip this year was led by Jeremy Dobson, the President of LepSoc Africa and Justin Bode, the Secretary. It took place in decidedly wet conditions but Jeremy made good use of the time to deliver an impromptu talk on butterflies and to answer some questions while the taps were well and truly on.

One important thing to note is that the common names of the butterlfies are currently being revised, the two Dullstroom endemics being renamed to make the connection more obvious. Warren’s Blue is now the Dullstroom Blue and Clark’s Lost Widow is now the Dullstroom Brown Speckled Widow.

In true Dullstroom style, the initial heavy showers gave way to a three-hour “sunny interval” which allowed a large party of around 25 to search for specimens along the provincial road adjacent to the main wetlands.

As always, it was a pleasure to be out in the veld with experts willing to share their knowledge, and the veld was looking particularly lush and green after good rains, with many flowers out. The sight of people with flowing white nets scampering through the grass gave the whole event a pleasingly 19th Century feel.  

Even making allowance for the cloudy weather, there weren’t too many butterflies flying, but we did compile a list of 17 species for the day (refer to the list below), including one of the Verloren Valei endemics, Serradinga clarki amissivallis. The popular name for this butterfly used to be Clark’s Lost Widow but these names are currently being reviewed, and this one is likely to end up being the Verloren Valei (or Dullstroom) Bronze Speckled Widow.

We were able to see the magnificent Table Mountain Beauty (Aeropetes tulbaghia) and Southern Gaudy Commodore (Precis octavia sesamus) and a fairly scarce wetland butterfly, Marsh Mountain Blue (Harpendyreus noquasa). We also experienced a small “migration” of Pioneer Caper White / Brown-veined White (Belenois aurota), which as you now all know, is not a migration but a dispersal phenomenon.

Southern Gaudy Commodore (Precis Octavia sesamus) (Photograph: Lourens Erasmus)

We were fortunate to have Gerrit van Ede as a member of the group and he, together with Jan Praet, were able to point out some of the flowers currently flowering. As if that wasn’t enough, Lourens Erasmus and Yolande Bode experienced a significant adrenaline rush when a Snouted Cobra hissed, threw a hood and slithered between them. Rather disappointingly (but understandable in the circumstances), there are no photos…

As we heard throughout the field trip, there are still many things to learn about the lepidoptera, and “citizen scientists” have a big role to play in gathering the information that is so necessary to conserving these amazing creatures. If you enjoy spending time in nature with like-minded people, even if you do not have much knowledge of butterflies, why not consider joining LepSocAfrica.

“The society is a home for everyone from casual butterfly watchers to serious lepidoptera researchers and taxonomists and, apart from other attractions, members receive a bi-monthly newsletter, written by yours truly,” says Jeremy.

If you would like to join, please visit https://lepsocafrica.org/ and click on the Join Us tab at the top of the homepage to review membership options.

Thanks to everyone who came on this trip, and special thanks to Jeremy and Justin for sharing their knowledge.

Many of the butterflies mentioned in this article have been covered in previous articles.

Dullstroom Bronze Speckled Widow (Serradinga clarki amissivallis)

Table Mountain Beauty (Aeropetes tulbaghia)

Southern Gaudy Commodore (Precis octavia sesamus)Pioneer Caper White / Brown-veined White (Belenois aurota)

Verloren Valei or Dullstroom Bronze Speckled Widow (Serradinga clarki amissivallis )(Photograph: Jeremy Dobson)
Pioneer Caper White/ Brown-veined White (Belenois aurota) (Photograph: Jeremy Dobson)

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