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Butterflies of the Judaean Hills

Notes by Victoria Neblik for

Israel, like Turkey, Jordan, The Lebanon and The Palestinian Territories enjoys a great location for wildlife spotting. Nestled at the junction of 3 continents, nature enthusiasts of the region are treated to a selection of African, Southern- and Eastern- European creatures and Western Asian fauna. This is most often noted in the context of the area's wild birds: places like the Lake Hula Nature Reserve are famously on the migratory routes of birds of all 3 continents, whilst Eilat,at Israel's southern most tip boasts the "International Bird Centre" (also known as the "Eilat Birding Centre" and "The Bird Sanctuary Eilat"), complete with views of neighbouring Jordan and Egypt just a few minutes as the proverbial crow (or bee-eater or flamingo) flies. However, biodiversity is about more than just birds and the region has a modest but fair smattering of butterflies from its 3 surrounding continents, too. Asian and African Creatures like the African Ringlet (Ypthima asterope) and Large Salmon Arab (Colotis fausta) can easily be seen on the same trip to the region as European creatures like the Southern Comma (Polygoni egea).

As anywhere, different local habitats attract different species, so, whilst I have frequently seen Large Salmon Arab- and Clouded Yellow-butterflies (Colias croceus) in the Botanic Gardens in Jerusalem, they are seemingly far less abundant in the Judaean Hills. So what is there to see in the region? Here are a few highlights compiled from regular walks (2 or 3 times per week over the course of several months) in various locations in the Judaean Hills...

Lesser Fiery Copper butterflies are always a glorious sight to behold, their intense structural colours more than making up for their small size In the Judaean Hills they are periodically seen flitting especially between low vegetation from February to November. There were masses of them around on my walks in May/June, but by July they had become less abundant. Some of this was probably down to the plants in areas where I encountered them most often being mown by the local authorities. In the picture above, A Lesser Fiery Copper butterfly, Lycaenia thersamon rests on a limestone path, Judaean Hills, near Mevaseret Zion and Abu Ghosh.

Above & Below: Levantine Marbled White butterfly, Melanargia titea, nectaring in the Judaean Hills.

Image (c) Victoria Neblik, 2018, All Rights Reserved.

The Levantine Marbled White is the "only white satyrid in Israel" and has "eyes" on the hindwings that distinguish it from other white butterflies. On the wing from April until July in the country's Mediterranean region (c.f. the country's Deser and Semi-Arid Regions, from which it is absent). [Information Source: "Butterflies of Israel: A Pocket Guide to Common Species" by Noam Kirshenbaum (with Richard Levington), Pub: "Nature in Israel"]

Levantine Marbled White Butterfly, (c) V. Neblik, 2018.

A white butterfly with neat black markings sits, wings almost completely closed nectaring from a purple-tipped yellow flower, surrounded by thorns of spiny foliage
Paler specimen of the Levantine Marbled White. (c) V. Neblik, 2018.

Bath White, Pontia daplidice (c) Victoria Neblik, 2018.

The Bath White, Pontia daplidice is another common speices, but one that is slightly smaller and more "jittery" than the Levantine Marbled White shown further above.

Large Wall Brown, Lasiommata maera, (c) Victoria Neblik, 2018

Meanwhile, The Large Wall Brown, Lasiommata maera, (above and below) is another common sight. Fluttering close to the ground, especially close to wild grasses and amongst piles of pinecones and small twigs. At a glance, it is similar to the Turkish Meadow Brown, Maniola telmessia, which also frequents scrubby hillsides in the region and is a comparable size. The Turkish Meadow Brown lacks the "eyes" on the hindwings (upper side), though, and has a comparatively drab underside to its hindwings, compared with the beautiful intricacies of the Large Wall Brown's hindwing undersides (see below). Both species are often seen with their wings open or part-open, so the fact that their uppersides and lower sides can be distinguished without needing to squint too closely, is very helpful.

Large Wall Brown, Lasiommata maera. (c) V. Neblik, 2018

The ornate underside of the Large Wall Brown is shown below.

The Large Wall Brown, Lasiommata maera, (c) V. Neblik, 2018

Israel and its neighbours are home to a selection of blue butterflies- notably Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous, the Long-Tailed Blue, Lampides boeticus, The Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus, The Eastern Baton Blue, Pseudophilotes vicrama and the Little Tiger Blue, Tarucus balkanicus. Of these, in general, the one I have seen most frequently is Lang's Short-tailed Blue, but that has been overwhelmingly in public parks in Jerusalem and on pathways alongside private gardens in Jerusalem itself, rather than on trails in the Judaean Hills. Below is a Common Blue, Polyommtus icarus, pictured on the edge of forested hillsides betwen Abu Ghosh and Mevaseret Zion. The smaller patches of orange near the wing margins compared with the Eastern Baton Blue and the more prominent white "rings" surrounding some of the blackspots on the hind wing can both help to identify the Common Blue when seen from the underside (compared with the Eastern Baton Blue).

Common Blue butterfly, wings slightly open sitting on a yellow flower
Common Blue, Polyommtus icarus, image (c) V. Neblik, 2018.

A common blue butterfly rests, wings closed on dried grass stems, giving a clear view of its wing undersides, eyes and antennae
Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icarus. Image (c) Victoria Neblik 2018

Other abundant butterflies include Caper Whites (Belenois aurota) and Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) with the former being a bit more seasonal, in my experience. I have seen what I am 99% sure are Cleopatra butterflies (Gonepteryx cleopatra) flitting through the gardens adjacent to wild land in this region, too, but their appearance has always been too unpredictable and their flight too high to get a close look, let alone a picture. The Large Whites, boring though they are, are at least more co operative in that regard.

Large, pure white butterfly with small dark markings showing through its wings on a large Hydrangea leaf with a serrated leaf edge visible and buff coloured wall behind it
A Large White Butterfly, Pieris brassicae, rests, wings closed on a garden Hydrangea macrophylla

- V. Neblik for

More from Victoria Neblik:

can be found in "Marie Curie and the Ibexes" in The Greatest Minds Shop or on Amazon's Kindle store (coming soon). She is also the author/illustrator of "Where Flowers Bloom"- a coffee table book of botanical pictures that is available now on kindle.

1 comment

1 Comment

Aug 26, 2018

Nice pictures. Love the orange one- Copper Butterflies are just awesome.

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