Butterflies in and Around Huay Pakoot

By 5 years ago
Categories Chiang Mai
My stay here in Huay Pakoot has coincided with the beginning of the rainy season here in Northern Thailand and therefore the butterfly population in the area is at its highest during the year. For my short-term internship I decided to try to identify as many species in the area as I could and begin compiling an easy-to-use, rough guide to what butterflies volunteers can look out for during their stay in the village and on the hikes.

 Many butterflies can be observed in the village on the edge of the forest or along the road because butterflies are not only attracted to floral nectar, but also rotting fruit, decaying meat, animal excrement and the mineral salts found in animal urine or on the edges of puddles. In the forest, clearings are ideal for spotting butterflies, although you are less likely to see them if the weather is especially hot, rainy or dry.

Many species of butterfly living in Thailand are confined to high altitude areas because their larvae have evolved to only eat a certain plant or plants that live there, and therefore when the villagers clear the forest for cropland, they risk endangering the less common species of butterfly that have adapted to only one or two species of plant. Butterflies are excellent indicators of the health of the environment they live in: the more varied the species of butterfly in an area, the more varied the plant life is in that area, and the more healthy the environment is there altogether.

During my stay I was able to identify nineteen species of butterfly from pictures that I and other volunteers have taken, although we have many more photos of species we have yet to identify. The guide I started, the Butterfly Binder, has several illustrated pages so far and a list of identified species with short descriptions of their appearances so that they may be added in more thoroughly at a later date.

One of the most common butterflies that we’ve observed in the village and the forest is the blue-spotted crow, a medium-sized butterfly with an iridescent blue sheen and white speckles on its black wings:

Gemma has also observed a butterfly that we have identified as a type of Lacewing, with spiked edges to its hind- and fore-wings and white and black stripes and spots on its yellow, pink and orange-coloured pigmentation:

This species of butterfly is known as a Paris Peacock and they have been observed around the village and in the forest, once during my stay here. Its iridescent green colouring comes from light refracting off of the microscopic ridges formed by the scales of its wings. All three of these butterflies are relatively common around here and volunteers yet to arrive on site get to look forward to observing countless beautiful butterflies that live nowhere else in the world. The more species we observe, the more we can infer that the forest that we and our elephants trek through every week is healthy and diverse, and hopefully will remain that way for future volunteers.

Izzie Davis – 6 week intern