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  • Home / Ningbo Times
    Over 200 Species in Ningbo
    Source: Insight Ningbo  | 2022-08-08 08:34:16

      The golden birdwing

      Front wings of the orange oakleaf;

      Photo by Lin Hailun

      A July 5th report by Ningbo Evening News titled ‘Incomplete Investigation: At Least 115 Butterfly Species Found in Longguan Township’ has attracted a great deal of public attention. Ningbo Evening News journalist Shi Chengcheng reached out to Lin Hailun – a famous Ningbo-based botanist and butterfly specialist – to draw a Butterfly Handbook of Ningbo.


      According to incomplete statistics, a total of 220 butterfly species of 11 families have been found and recorded so far in Ningbo. Among them, 59 species belong to the Nymphalidae family, 43 to the Lycaenidae and 42 to the Hesperiidae. Surprisingly, only 26 species of them fall into the famous Papilionidae family, while 27 are from the Satyridae.


      Nymphalidae butterflies are the largest group of recorded butterflies found in Ningbo. Many of them have strong wings for speedy flying. Others are fond of sucking animal excrement or garbage; still others like to drink bleeding sap from tree bark. The caterpillars of Nymphalidae butterflies also have their own characteristics. Species of this family – such as Vanessa indica (Indian painted lady), Vanessa cardui (painted lady), Araschnia doris and Symbrenthia lilaea (peninsular jester) – prefer the perennial plant ramie as the host, a trait they share with Actinote issoria (yellow coster) and caterpillars of ramie noctuid moths. The peacock pansy caterpillars tend to eat the leaves of Hygrophila ringens of the Acanthus family, while the Asian comma caterpillars only eat Japanese hop leaves.


      The great purple emperor (Sasakia charonda) rates a mention when it comes to the Nymphalidae family. In Ningbo, this pretty butterfly species could only be found in Dayan Town of Fenghua District. The orange oakleaf (Kallima inachus) of the same family sounds much plainer, but is famous for its “mimicry”—when closing its wings, it resembles a dead leaf. This camouflage means that few people ever see their colorful forewings. In sunshine, they send out a purple and blue gloss coupled with wide dark yellow stripes.


      In Ningbo, swallowtail butterflies (the Papilionidae family) rank fifth in terms of quantity but first in terms of attention. They are attractive for their colorful appearance, elegant dance and comparatively big size.


      Among the 26 species of swallowtail butterflies discovered and recorded in Ningbo, the most precious is the golden birdwing. Gold as its dominant color, this insect is adorned with black spots on its body, dark red hairs on the chest and neck, bird-wing shaped light stripes on the forewings and black stripes on the hindwings. It was first discovered and recorded in July 2009 in Zhanqi Town, Yinzhou District. Its caterpillars are born with a retractable organ behind their head which resembles the tongue of a snake. When the caterpillars get disturbed or stimulated, these glands extend and exude a strong aromatic odor that deters predators. This also distinguishes them from the caterpillars of other butterflies.


      It is not easy to record the species and quantity of butterflies. Some species may be very rare in one place, but are common in another, and vice versa. Lin proposed a reliable method of locating butterflies by searching for plants. Butterflies are known to rely on the host plants for their survival. No matter how lovely and beautiful the surroundings are, butterflies find them useless if there is no appropriate host plant.


      Residents in downtown Ningbo are most familiar with common bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon) and the tawny rajah (Charaxes bernardus). Their host plants are camphor trees that are found everywhere in the city. What’s more, Indian painted lady and Asian comma are also common in our daily life. In Siming Mountain, the Chinese peacock butterfly (Achillidesbianor Cramer), the spangle butterfly (Papilio protenor Cramer) of the Papilionidae family, the doublerday butterfly (Damora sagana) and the Indian fritillary butterfly (Argynnis hyperbius) of the Nymphalidae family are oft-found butterfly species.


      Butterfly species are generally quite limited in downtown Ningbo mainly owing to the lack of plant diversity. For butterfly caterpillars, sufficient quantities of honey plants are essential for growth. In nature, the survival of different butterflies depends upon the existence of suitable honey plants across four seasons, which is unlikely in urban areas.


      “For that reason, if we want to see more butterfly species, we will have to expand the diversity of host and honey plants. Meanwhile, don’t use insecticides so as to protect the natural breeding of butterflies.” Lin noted.


      Reporter: Shi Chengcheng

      Translator: Mei Jie

      Proofreaders: Huang Dawang, Lü Chang, Jason Mowbray

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