Southern Marbled Skipper (Carcharodus baeticus)
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2019 photographs highlighted in yellow. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.
This is quite a rarity, easily the most elusive of the four Carcharodus species that occur in France. It is essentially an Iberian species, the distribution "spilling" into the far south of France.
It is quite similar to the Mallow Skipper (C. alceae) in terms of size and colouring, although the spring brood of baeticus is rather more greyish than the brown autumn brood. The uph discal series of white spots is highly indicative, being more extensive than the white marks of the Tufted Marbled Skipper (C. flocciferus) and the uph submarginal series of marks of baeticus is described in books as sinuous, usually only visible in fresh specimens e.g. 30082 and to some extent in 42681). The underside holds the key to its identification in that it is pale brown and the white discal series is complete, and the key diagnostic feature is the prominent lighter veins; this is not the case for the other Carcharodus species. The sub-marginal unh series of markings also rather reflects the sinuous series of the uph. 42623 shows this very clearly.
I saw baeticus for the first time in 2010, the only one I saw at that location. Curiously, and as is often the case, I saw another in a different location only a few days later. In 2012 a location was discovered in northern Var at around 1000m altitude, where the baeticus was restricted to the region where the larval hostplant, Marrubium vulgare (White Horehound), was growing. It is a species that is "tied" to its larval hostplant, and its flight is usually short and buzzy, from one plant to another, as most of these shots attest. It is almost constantly on the move, so photography is difficult.
In 2016 and again in 2017 I visited a remote site in Var that I had been told about where a healthy colony existed, albeit of only about six or so individuals flying there at any one time.
This species was previously widely known as Carcharodus boeticus but in the new European taxonomy, this species now has the scientific name Carcharodus baeticus.
|30082||M||a fresh male showing the sinuous wavy line in the submarginal region of the hindwing.||1020|
|39279||M||this male was seen in the far west of Var, in a location where I had not seen this species before although it had been historically recorded from there. However, its stay on this planet was short-lived as moments later it had been taken by a Robber Fly.||680|
|40561||M||a first brood male as can be seen from the rather greyish colouring and the hair tuft at the end of the abdomen.||420|
|42624||M||a fresh male, with the forewing slightly folded down such that the uph marks are not completely visible. This is a fairly normal pose and may be the reason why baeticus is possibly under-recorded as, in this pose, it could easily be confused with alceae.||420|
|45716||M||a second brood male, showing the brown colouring of this second brood. The uph markings are not particularly distinct, but I think any other species can be precluded.||620|
|42635||M||a male, slightly aged and a little paler.||420|
|40552||F||a first brood female, as indicated by the end of the abdomen.||420|
|40559||F||the same female as 40552, egg-laying on Marrubium vulgare.||420|
|42681||F||a fresh female, taking a brief rest after a sustained spell of egg-laying. This offers the best chance of a clear photograph, but it does entail watching a female for a reasonable period of time.||420|
|23634||F||the white marks are still clearly in evidence despite 23634 being very much at the end its flight period. This photo, the perhaps the freshest of the few second brood baeticus I have seen, shows how the second brood colour is brown compared to the grey of the first brood.||560|
|42623||M||a clear view of a male underside, showing the extent of the unh pattern, making baeticus unmistakeable from this view as no other Carcharodus species has this degree of patterning.||420|
|40570||F||a couple engaged in courtship, which entailed a curious process of repeated antenna touching. The female on the left is quite fresh and the reticulated underside pattern, characteristic of this species, is clearly visible.||420|
the underside of 23634 demonstrating how important a view of both surfaces can be for positive identification; with just the upperside view, it might not be 100% conclusive to identify this as baeticus.