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Monday, April 17, 2017

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: The Cleopatra butterfly in Britain

Gonepteryx.cleopatra.mounted.jpgIn early April 2017 Jon Downes told me the Cleopatra butterfly was a resident of continental Europe. However I have a couple of old records I found in the excellent `Porritt`s Lists` which is a reprint of George Porritt`s Yorkshire butterfly and moth records first published in 1883/86, 1904,1907 and 1922 (Butterfly Conservation 2011)

Page 158 includes the following records - Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra or rhamni

1883 Of general occurrence except in the coal districts of West Riding, where it is rare), but scarcely so common as the last.The variety Cleopatra occurred at Thrybergh Park, near Rotherham,June 27th 1860 (Rev HA Pickard in Entomologist`s Wkly Intell. 8: 171-2 Sept 1860)

1904 p.193. Widely distributed but apparently not nearly so common as my former record would lead one to suppose

1907 p.248 Widely distributed, but not common.

Note: Although Porritt treated the Cleopatra as a variety, the Cleopatra as a variety, it is actually a separate species. There is a full history of this record in H.M.Frost (ed) 2005 The Butterflies of Yorkshire.

In the Doncaster Museum Collection there is a Cleopatra labelled `Collected by EA Schofield, Doncaster August 1911` with its photograph on p.158 of Porritt`s Lists.

PIC: By Sarefo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2905123

EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Cleopatra is a close relative of the Brimstone, a common British species. The excellent UK Butterflies website writes:

"Several individuals of this species were captured in the late 1800s, and their data labels indicate they were taken from Ventnor, Isle of Wight in 1870, Sandown, Isle of Wight in August 1873, Aldeburgh, Suffolk in 1896 and Forfar in June 1887. An individual was also caught at Feock, near Falmouth, Cornwall in September 1957. More recent records include an individual seen on 27th July 1981 in a garden in Temple Ewell, Kent and a male seen in Jersey on 10th August 1986. This species is not considered to be migratory and their presence has been attributed to passage by ship."

It would appear, therefore, that Richard has discovered a series of previously unknown sightingsof this species. Well done old friend.

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