Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

32172_male_Var_14May13 18270_male_Isère_12Jul09 4882_male_Var_21Apr07
24751_male_Var_13May11 24762_male_Var_13May11 36520_male_Rhône_23Jul14
37087_male_Var_3May15 40311_female_Var_29Apr16 40675_male_Rhône_28May16
20151_sex?_Var_18May10 10197_male_Var_3May08 31512_male_Var_29Aug12

One of the most attractive butterflies, a majestic glider with an unmistakeable flight, gliding for quite long distances interspersed only by a few rapid wingbeats. The upperside has a blue-violet tinge especially when fresh and the underside is a very crisply-patterned pure white on red. It has taken me several years of trying to capture the blue sheen and I still don't really feel that I'm getting close, so these shots really don't do it justice. The sheen is not unlike that of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) in that it is visible at certain angles, but not in the same dramatic way that iris goes from purple to brown. I have seen specimens in earlier years with marked but small red-orange markings on the uph, especially at the anal angle. It is the same size as, and the markings are superficially similar to, the White Admiral (L. camilla) but they are not difficult to tell apart. Camilla does not occur in Var and neighbouring départements, so any Admiral seen there is certain to be reducta.

I had seen them in most locations across southern France but never in great numbers until 2004 when they were actually very common. They seemed to be attracted to a very small patch of water (almost the only water) in an otherwise completely dry river bed. In one nearby bush I counted nearly 50 nectaring.

 

The males are very territorial and patrol up and down their stretch, perching on the outer edges of a bush at about 2m off the ground (just high enough to make it difficult to photograph) to warn off potential competitors. They are early emergers in Var and there is a second brood which in long hot dry summers (normal in southern Var) are often noticeably smaller than the spring generation. Some early first brood specimens can be almost black, with very little trace of blue; this seems to be natural and not an effect of ageing. 4882 is a good example.

ref sex

observations

alt. m
32172 M a male nectaring on some species of Spurge (Euphorbia), perhaps nicaeensis. It's not a great photograph but it does come close to showing the vibrant blue of reducta. I have only seen them nectaring at the end of the day, and Euphorbia is often the preferred source. 220
18270 M

a male, taking salts. This behaviour is almost as unusual as nectaring. The blue is starting to show here, but somehow the camera just does not capture the vibrancy of the colour.

1120
4882 M

this early season male appeared almost black, with only a hint of blue in the marginal dashes. I recall that that is how it seemed at the time, so don't think it's a camera-angle effect. Early specimens did seem very dark, so 4882 wasn't that unusual.

220
24751 M a typical male in territorial pose, ready to see off all intruders. This is the same individual as 24762. 140
24762 M a male, the same individual as 24751, but in a more relaxed pose. 140
36520 M a male, posing conveniently on the ground if only for a moment, but this photograph still does not capture the rather iridescent blue that is seen in the field. 180
37087 M a male, uncharacteristically stopping with open wings. This slightly out of focus shot does at least come close to capturing the deep but dark blue so obvious when seen in the field. 220
40311 F a female, and this shot is just starting to capture the bluish colouring. 220
40675 M a male underside, as evidenced by the territorial pose. 180
20151 M

possibly a male, if this is a territorial pose, showing the contrast between the deep red and brilliant white bands.

220
10197 M

a typical territorial pose of a male.

450
31512 M a male in typical territorial pose. 20

 

32172_male_Var_14May13

 

18270_male_Isère_12Jul09

 

4882_male_Var_21Apr07

 

24751_male_Var_13May11

 

24762_male_Var_13May11

 

36520_male_Rhône_23Jul14

 

37087_male_Var_3May15

 

40311_female_Var_29Apr16

 

40675_male_Rhône_28May16

 

20151_sex?_Var_18May10

 

10197_male_Var_3May08

 

31512_male_Var_29Aug12