Herds o’ Butterflies

There been herds o’ butterflies mooching through my garden lately. I been shooting them, but still they come. So I thought I’d post some of those I shot for the enjoyment of them that are fond of the lil guys. Like me.

I’ve posted them – and many other creatures and plants – on iNaturalist.org here.

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“I been shooting them, but still they come,” is me quoting from a book I read long ago, “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.”** It told of settlers living in early Kenya who planted citrus trees. The elephants in that dry country loved them and they shot them and shot them, “but still they came.” Aren’t we humans delightful?

** which man-eater story, incidentally I recommend one takes with a huge pinch of salt. I don’t think lions behave that way, and I don’t think humans behave that way. But it sold like hot cakes and was imitated and frauds were perpetuated on its wave of success (at least one book had that title but the stories inside had nothing to do with the title!).

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I have learnt, in trying to emulate another, more famous Swanepoel with a butterfly net, that catching these flitters aint easy! So its more stalk and click than stalk and catch.

Lockdown – In Our Lucky Valley

Random pictures from lockdown in our valley.

I won’t get all the credits right, but for starters, lots of bird pics from Roger Hogg, lots of butterfly, moth and caterpillar – and many other creatures – from Suncana. And a few from me:

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Lepidopterism – an affliction

Lepidopterists lead exciting lives!

This from my LepSoc newsletter: Hi everyone; We will be doing a day trip to Tswaing crater, just north of Pretoria, on the 24th September, where special butterflies such as Brown-lined Sapphires, Saffron Sapphires, Hutchinson’s Highfliers, etc. can be seen.

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Us lepidopterists see not only these high fliers, but others such as Skollies, Nightfighters, Pirates, Policemen and Admirals. Playboys, Pansies and Painted Ladies are also sought-after! One can go prancing after them wearing a pith helmet and waving a net! What’s not to love?

There’s even one called swanepoelii and one called brauerii

Lepidopterism is one of the more fun diseases to contract, and lepidopterists lead exciting lives!
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Soutar wrote:

Keep your net stockings on.

We off to Karkloof today. Will try to bring back a dead Karkloof Blue.

That and a Pink Elephant.

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Me:

¶¶ . . and a Stuffed Delegorgue’s Pigeon, a Dead Cape Parrot and . .

¶¶ Planks from a Yellowwood Tree . . ¶¶

.

Hey! We could write a song like that . . .

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A Real-Life Lepidoptometrist:

Hilton Pike is a nimble optometrist fella who darts around lithely with a butterfly net, holding it rather like Obelix doesn’t hold his menhirs. A talented lad, young Hilton, he builds fancy hi-fidelity speakers, refurbishes phoropters and mounts butterflies with pins on polystyrene in glass cabinets, all the while making children. Lovely chap, I miss him. Where is he?

– from LepSoc‘s stunning website –

One of me own: Lepi Fordus radiatorii

– butterfly Fordus radiatorii
– ah, and he looks the part! –

Swanepoel, David Abraham (1912–1990). Swanepoel began collecting in 1925. Pennington’s Butterflies of southern Africa (Pringle et al. 1994) describes Swanepoel as follows: ‘Probably no other person has spent as much time and effort in the pursuit of butterflies in the field as this great collector, who had the tremendous gift of being able to excite others about butterflies. His immaculate collection is in the Transvaal Museum. He discovered many new species and subspecies and published many descriptions of new taxa.’

– pinned specimens – from DA Swanepoel’s book –

His list of publications includes the book Butterflies of South Africa: where, when and how they fly, published in 1953 in Holland at his own cost. At the time, it was one of the most valuable reference guides to South African butterflies, citing his many collection localities across the length and breadth of South Africa. He collaborated closely with both Georges van Son and Ken Pennington. Popular names for many of South Africa’s butterflies were proposed by him. ( SANBI Biodiversity Series 16 (2010)6 ).

Swanepoel ended his book with these words: ‘In laying down my pen at the end of what has been to me a pleasurable task, I take occasion to dedicate this book to all naturalists and friends, without whose kindness and ungrudging aid it must inevitable have left much to be desired; and to those naturalists who may one day wander over the numerous paths that have afforded me so many happy, unforgettable hours – these would hardly have been possible without the grace of the Creator of all the beautiful forms described in this book. As mentioned in the introduction, this work is by no means complete, and if one day it is revised by some future observer, may he fulfil my dearest wish by building a great entomological castle upon this small foundation stone.’ (Epilogue of D.A. Swanepoel’s book, page 316).

Read more about David A Swanepoel and other pioneering flutterby enthusiasts here.

steve reed wrote: When we lived in Clarens we had an annual visitation by what must have been the self-same Swanepoel. Khaki clad solitary figure, fleet-footing round the village with his net like something out of Peter Pan. Regarded by the locals with great interest (and a good level of suspicion ) . .

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I was lucky enough to meet Ivor Migdoll, who wrote the next butterfly book (as far as I know, the first field guide) in 1987. He came to me for his glasses in Durban, and we had some good chats and I loved using his book (since mislaid!).

– I must find my copy of Ivor’s book –

And of course we are all lucky now to have Steve Woodhall, who has built on these two books’ foundations – as well as the big Pennington Butterfly ‘bible’ – and brought out his vastly improved field guide in 2005. He tells the story of how Ivor Migdoll became ill and quietly withdrew from public life. Pippa Parker of Struik Nature told him they were planning a completely new edition of the Field Guide to Butterflies (Ivor’s best-selling book) but could not get hold of him. He did some digging and discovered that Ivor had a horrible, little-known condition called ‘burning mouth syndrome’ and could hardly speak. Hence his reluctance.

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And so this magic new field guide was born without Ivor’s input:

One gets forgotten

David Swanepoel was a wonderful lepidopterist back in the 1920’s to the ’60’s. He discovered many butterflies and some were named swanepoelii after him.

I wanted to find out more about him so went searching the ‘net for him (please don’t ‘google,’ use startpage.com or duckduckgo.com or qwant.com as more internet-friendly ways to search the internet).

Here’s what I got:

Candice Butterfly.jpg

Candice Swanepoel as a butterfly!

I then found this:

Mark Williams founded the SA Lepidopterists’ Society in 1983.

As a schoolboy in the mid-1960s Williams, accompanied by two friends, stumbled into a bush camp to find an old Chevy beside a tent and the well-known South African lepidopterist David Swanepoel, who had gorgeous azure butterflies pinned on a board.

Williams managed to annoy the old man, who had been collecting since the early 1900s, and who offered to show the boys where to find the creature. Though tantalized, Williams said he’d find it himself and watched in disgust as his two camping companions trotted after Swanepoel, “like obedient puppies.”

“He called me a hard head and a little bliksem and said I’d never find them. It took me three days. I worked my butt off.

“But I came back and held it up and said, ‘I found it.’ He leaned over conspiratorially and said: ‘Those other two will give up butterflies. But you will do this for the rest of your life.'”


And this:

David Abraham Swanepoel (1912–1990) began collecting in 1925.

His book Butterflies of South Africa—when, where and how they fly. Swanepoel DA (1953) Maskew Miller, Cape Town

There’s a David Swanepoel collection in the Transvaal Museum.

Dira swanepoeli and Papillio ophidocephalus entabeni, were discovered in 1939 by Mr. D.A Swanepoel, after extensive collecting in the Soutpansberg, near Mountain View Hotel.

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