Recently, members of the Lepidopterist Society of South Africa visited Mountainlands Nature Reserve. Their objective was to show Malcolm Bain from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency the locality of one of the endemic butterflies, Aloeides barbarae (Barberton Russet, formerly known as Barbara’s Copper).
Malcolm has been appointed as the custodian for two endangered Mpumalanga butterflies: Cloud Russet and Barberton Russet as part of a Lepsoc project. Named the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Lepidoptera (COREL), it is focussed on securing the survival of threatened butterfly and moth species.
He was accompanied by Jeremy Dobson, Chairman of the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa, Dietmar Ley who is helping to monitor the Mountainlands endemic butterlies, and fellow enthusiast Martin Lunderstedt.
Even though the Barberton Russet has only previously been recorded from October and November, the men found it flying in fair numbers during February. This significantly extends its known flight period. Over the years, Dietmar has found isolated specimens of Barberton Russet at Mountainlands and had also identified a strong colony. During this visit, Martin located another colony in another area in the reserve which extends the distribution range. “Several butterfly species – including the Aloeides – are associated with ants. They are frequently only found within small areas, not much larger than say, four tennis courts and don’t venture far from this colony. Finding a new colony greatly improves the chances of survival of the butterfly, in the event of the destruction of a single colony,” said Jeremy.
As if finding A. barbarae wasn’t enough, they also saw Lepidochysops swanepoeli (Barberton Giant Cupid, formerly known as Swanepoel’s Blue) on the wing. This endemic species appears to have more than one brood per season. It was thought to have a single emergence in October-November. “If nothing else, this shows how little we still know about this butterfly,” said Jeremy.
To learn more about the butterflies on Mountainlands go to: