by Michael P.T. Gillett
The following article appeared in the January, 1993 edition of the
Whilst reading through a recent copy of Tribulus magazine, I was surprised to
see that the pretty Yellow Pansy butterfly (Precis hierta) was
absent from a checklist of butterflies of the United Arab Emirates (Brown,
1992). My immediate thoughts were that this must be an omission, since I have
seen this distinctive species on a number of occasions in the Al Ain region.
However, on reflection, I realized that all such encounters had been on the
Omani side of the border. With certainty, I recall seeing this species on a
number of afternoon walks just off the Buraimi to Mahdah road (at around km18)
during the first two weeks of May 1992. Only a small number of specimens were
seen, sunning themselves amongst the rocks alongside the throngs of Blue Pansies
(Precis orithya here). These trips coincided with the flowering of
countless Acacia trees. Curiously enough, although the blossom had attracted
swarms of pierid and lycaenid butterflies, together
with bees, wasps, flies and beetles, no Yellow Pansy and only very few Blue
Pansy butterflies visited the flowers. This may be due to the time of day (mid
afternoon), since even in Europe many common nymphalid butterflies (Small
Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral etc.) appear to feed in the forenoon and to spend the
Given the location, which is close to Al Ain, and the presence, nearby, of
similar habitants on the UAE side of the border, it seems to me that P. hierta
may eventually be found over here and will very likely take its place on a
future checklist of Emirates lepidoptera. Although its stronghold in this region
is undoubtedly in the jebels and wadis of Oman, this butterfly should be
searched for around the base of Jebel Hafit towards the end of April and at the
beginning of May. Late afternoon searches should pay attention to the
butterflies resting on the ground, but it is possible that expeditions made
earlier in the day may find the butterfly at Acacia blossoms.
Whilst on the subject of the Arabian Pansy butterflies, it is necessary to
recall that like the Painted Lady (Gillett, 1992) they also suffer from problems
of nomenclature. In the interesting book on the insects of the eastern region of
the Arabian Peninsula by Walker and Pittaway (1987), they are recorded under the
generic name Junonia, and this name is often repeated in recent
reports (e.g. Wingate, 1992). The actual generic name Junonia appears
to apply to only a single American species (J. lavinia), widespread in many
forms and sub-species from Canada to Argentina (Lewis, 1974; Otero, 1986). The
genus Precis, as presently recognized, includes numerous species
in African and, to a lesser extent, throughout Asia as far as Japan and
Australia. The Blue and Yellow Pansy butterflies are not, of course, confined to
Arabia, but are widely distributed throughout these neighboring regions, where
they are definitely assigned to the genus Precis (Lewis, 1974). Use of the
generic term Junonia is best left to transatlantic butterflies,
but even there it has been suggested (Swan and Papp, 1972) that these really
belong to Precis!
Brown, J.N.B. (1992) Butterflies of the United Arab Emirates. Tribulus 2.1;
Gillett, M. (1992) Vanessa or Cynthia? Entomology
at the Inter Emirates Hash at the Taweelah motel (29-30 October 1992). ENHG (Al
Ain) Newsletter No. 127 (December 1992); 6.
Lewis, H.L. (1974) Butterflies of the World. Harrap, London.
Otero, L.S. (1986) Borboletas. Livro do Naturalista. FAE, Rio de Janeiro.
Swan, L.A. and Papp, C.S. (1972) The Common Insects of North America. Harper
& Row, New York.
Walker, D.H. and Pittaway, A.R. (1987) Insects of Eastern Arabia. Macmillan,
Wingate, B. (1992) UAE invertebrates. Tribulus 2.2; 32.