Bulletin 12 - November 1980: Butterflies and Hawk Moths of Qatar and Eastern Arabia

Butterflies and Hawk Moths of Qatar and Eastern Arabia

The following has been taken from:

"Butterflies (Lepidoptera) of Qatar April - June 1979"


"The Butterflies and Hawk Moths of Eastern Saudi Arabia"

by A.R. Pittaway

It is hoped to include the complete set of papers in following Bulletins.

Although the information given is for Qatar and Saudi Arabia, many of the species mentioned can be found in the Emirates and therefore the details of plant life, terrain etc. may help members in recording.

There is a letter from Mr. Pittaway included in this Bulletin and we take this opportunity of thanking him for allowing us to print the following.

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(Key: R: Range; F.T.: Flight Time; F.P.: Food Plant)


Papilio demoleus (Citrus Swallowtail)

Range: From Saudi Arabia and Mesopotamia across sub-tropical and tropical Asia to Northern Australia

Saudi Arabia: Common in the oases of Safwa, Qatif, Tarut Island, Al Hassa and various wadis along Tuwayq Hills, especially Wadi Hanifa to the west of Riyadh.

Adult: 92 - 106 mm. A strong flyer, sailing and soaring over Citrus groves, along tracks, as well as between date palms where it is greatly attracted to the flower of the root brassicas and Lantana.

The species varies from oasis to oasis and is on the wing from mid-February to early December in a succession of overlapping broods. Scarce at the beginning of its flight period with numbers building up in April.

Early Stages: The only food plant in the early stages is the Citrus species particularly lemon and mandarin. The glossy yellow and domed eggs are laid singly on the young leaves of a growing tip, never on old leaves. The eggs are very conspicuous and locally numerous as many females will select the same bush for oviposition - with young saplings preferred.

The newly hatched larvae resemble Papilio machaon L., i.e. black with a white saddle and spiny. These colorings last until the fourth instar as does its habit of resting and feeding exposed on top of a leaf.

Green becomes the dominant dorsal color in the next skin change with white ventrally and a brown and white chequered anterior band over its 50 mm body. Its resting and feeding now becomes more secretive, hiding amongst the twigs and leaves.

The 25 - 35 mm pupa forms amongst these twigs although, if the larvae are on a sapling, then the pupa forms on the main stem. Many pupae are destroyed during the winter months by parasites and bacterial disease; however, large numbers still survive.

A number of color forms were evident - green and yellow; light brown and purple with yellowish brown with dark brown markings.

Qatar: This species was only found in Doha where the larvae feed on cultivated Citrus in gardens. Reported flying throughout the year with a small break during December, January and February. The butterfly was fairly numerous at Jasminum indica and Bougainvillea blossom. Quite a large number had an earthy brown dorsal abdominal band, which is normally black.

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Papilio machaon Linne (Swallowtail)

Range: Across the Palearctic and Northern Nearctic in a multitude of sub-species.

Saudi Arabia: In eastern Saudi Arabia, it is confined to the Al Hassa Oasis as well as on Tarut Island where it had been introduced in the winter of 1977/78.

Eller originally named this population ssp arabensis but gave no description or type locality. Examination of a number of individuals shows quite clearly that this Saudi population is but an isolated colony of Papilio machaon syriacus: Verity. However, the Al Hassa examples do have broader and more curved tails than Mesopotamian specimens. Occasionally in summer some individual of ssp. muetingi Seyer from Iran will turn up in other areas.

Papilio machaon frequents cultivated date palm areas, especially those bordering Lucerne fields, where it forms definite breeding colonies.

Adult: 84 - 98 mm. This is found from late November to mid-April in a number of overlapping broods, usually four. It is common during January and February.

They fly quite fast along partially shaded tracks or over cultivated fields frequently stopping to sip nectar at the flowers of root brassicas and Ocimum basilicum (Sweet Basil).

The flight of the impregnated females is more leisurely, stopping every so often to investigate clumps of Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) or to sun themselves during the coldest month. When warmer weather sets in, adults mostly fly in the shade among the date palms.

Early stage: Fennel and Haplophyllum terberculatum (Rutaceae) are the food plants. As the former plant is an introduction it is possible that this species once fed solely on the latter.

The glossy yellow and domed eggs are laid either all over the small seedlings in fields or on the lower and outer leaves of larger growths. During mid-winter, the plants growing in full sunlight are preferred but by March some shade is sought for part of the day.

The larvae cannot be distinguished from those of P. machaon gorganus Fruhstorfer in all stages.

Those feeding on fennel generally eat lower and older leaves while on Haplophyllum both leaves and flowers are avidly taken by all instars. On the latter plant, as many as nine larvae per plant have been found ranging from newly emerged to fully-grown individuals.

Pupae are formed away from the food plants - on tree trunks, shrublets or on the irrigation channels. The pupae are identical to those of ssp. gorganus from central Europe with both green and brown forms.


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