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A Second Spring?

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by Michael P.T. Gillett

(The following is a report to the membership in the December 1995 issue of the Newsletter. At the time, he was the group's recording officer.)

Butterflies and Other Insects in the Al Ain Region September - November 1995

I have been amazed at the variety of wildlife in evidence during the last six or seven weeks. Quite a variety of herbs and trees have been in flower and the wealth of insect life associated with this has made the period seem more like spring than autumn. The most obvious proof of this has been the number of butterfly records that I have made. During the period in question, I made four trip to Wadi Aboule (24º27'N 56º04'E), three to Wadi Masah (24º22'N 56º05E'), two to Wadi Kitnah (24º08'N 56º13'E) and one to Wadi Kutwah (24º15'N 56º08E'). One dry wadi area (24º23' N55º57'E) near to Mahdah was also visited once. On these trips, some 25 species of butterfly were recorded which is more than half of all species known from the UAE and neighboring areas of Oman! It is also probably that several others have gone unrecorded, since certain pierids (Whites) and lycaenids (Blues) are impossible to identify on the wing, whilst some of the smaller Skippers are very unobtrusive and seldom seen. The following table lists all records for the period including just a few from Al Ain.

Butterfly Wadi Aboule Wadi Musah Wadi Kutwah Wadi Kitnah Mahdah Al Ain
Lime Butterfly + + + + + +
Swallowtail - - - + - -
Desert White + + + + - +
Caper White + + - + + -
Blue Spotted Arab + + + + + +
Desert Orange Tip - - - + + -
Delmon Arab + + + + - -
African Emigrant + + - + - -
Fig Blue - - - + - -
Leopard Butterfly* + - - - + -
Mediterranean Pierrot + + + + + +
Desert Babul Blue + + + + + +
Small Cupid + + + + - -
Grass Jewel - - - + - -
Pea Blue + - - - + -
Plain Tiger + + + + + +
Painted Lady + + - + + -
Blue Pansy + + + + + -
Yellow Pansy ** + + - + + -
White Edged
Rock Brown
+ + - - - -
Baluchi Ringlet ** - + + - - -
Common Three Ring + + + + - -
Giant Skipper * + - - + - -
Desert Grizzled
Skipper
- - - + - -
Millet Skipper + + - - - -
* New records for Al Ain region **Confirmatory records for Al Ain region

The data clearly show that the wet wadi butterfly faunas are far richer in species than are the dry wadis or the gardens of Al Ain. However, at certain times interesting species do occur in al Ain and I can think of at least two that are not on the above list - the Diadem and the Pomegranate Playboy.

Other insects very much in evidence during the period of this report include dragonflies and a great variety of grasshoppers. The latter represent a group of insects, some of them remarkably colorful, which remain almost totally unstudied within the region. Finally some of the beetles seen on flowering trees have also been indicators more of spring than of autumn. Two species of large jewel beetles (Julodis spp) seen on flowering Acacia in Wadis Aboule and Kitnah are normally present during April and May. A giant oil beetle (Mylabris maculoventris) is also a rare occurrence in May at flowering plants, but at the beginning of November, two specimens were taken with the aid of a lepidopterist's net at Fossil Valley where they were feeding at flowers of Ziziphus spina-cristi. The rose chafer, Stalagmosoma albella, is also a springtime beetle, but this year it too has been present in numbers at flowering trees including Acacia and Ziziphus spina-cristi.

Taken together with observations made during the real spring, the above records point to 1995 as being quite a successful year for insects in the region. Certainly it contrasts widely with 1994 which was, of course, dry and unexceptional from the point of view of wildlife.


Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan