Ladakh, literally meaning “land of high passes” is in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Ladakh is administratively divided into two districts, Leh District and Kargil District. Xinjiang Province, China, Aksai Chin and Tibet are on Ladakh’s northern, northeastern and eastern borders. To the northwest is Baltistan on the Pakistan border, to the west is the Kashmir Valley and Jammu, while to the south is Lahaul Spiti District in Himachal Pradesh.
The Ladakh region is a high altitude, cold desert and it is the highest plateau in Jammu & Kashmir. The low precipitation in the area means that vegetation is sparse. Ladakh is bound by the Karakoram mountain range to its north and the Great Himalaya to the south. The Zanskar Range and the Ladakh range are in the west and east of Ladakh respectively. The Indus River flows through the Indus Valley, the Nubra and the Shyok rivers flow through the Nubra Valley while the Stod and the Lungnak rivers flow through the Zanskar Valley.
The butterflies of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir and Lahaul and Spiti District, Himachal Pradesh are not well studied. The Ladakh region, part of the inner Himalaya, is remote and not easily accessible explaining the paucity of information on Lepidoptera. Moreover, being a cold desert, butterfly activity is largely restricted to the May to September period.
The average height of the high altitude plateau in Ladakh is 3,000m, and numerous motorable high altitude passes, such as Khardung “La” (Ladakhi: pass), Changa La, Namshang La, Lachung La in Ladakh and Rohtang La in Lahaul means that these areas can be accessed in a vehicle, at least in the summer months, which coincide with the peak period for butterfly activity. A number of high altitude lakes in the eastern part of Ladakh such as Pangong, Tsomoriri and Tsokar, and their surrounding areas are interesting habitats to survey for butterflies.
Older published literature on butterflies for Jammu & Kashmir includes publications by Lang (1868) and Home (1938), but these were not based on the Ladakh region. There are a few recent studies on the butterfly fauna of Ladakh. Mani & Singh (1962) reported on the Lepidopteran fauna of the nival zones of northwestern Himalaya, which included a mention of butterflies of Ladakh. They listed 91 Lepidopteran species including moths and butterflies of which 71 species and subspecies of butterflies were listed with a brief mention of localities and distribution.
Amongst the most comprehensive studies on butterflies of Ladakh was conducted by V.V. Tshikolovets during numerous expeditions between 1995 and 2004. He published a catalogue of his work listing 101 butterfly species from Ladakh (Tshikolovets 2005).
Amongst the more recent publications from Ladakh is the paper by Sidhu et al. (2012) from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), which recorded 20 species during a collection survey conducted between July and September 2009. This paper does not mention the survey efforts and intensity, but it is surprising that the number of species recorded were so few.
The Zoological Survey of India conducted a faunal survey in Pangi Valley in Chamba District in Himachal Pradesh, which is on the northwestern edge of Lahaul and Spiti District with similar altitudinal range and habitats. The ZSI survey recorded 36 species of butterflies (Sidhu 2013).
This paper is an outcome of a short 12-day survey in Ladakh in June and July 2016 during which 42 species of butterflies were recorded. Most of these species belonged to the Palearctic region, with only a few species recorded that can also be seen in the Oriental region. None of these species are new to Ladakh and Lahaul, having been reported by Tshikolovets (2005) and Sidhu et al. (2012); however, given the paucity of information of butterflies of the region, it was pertinent for us to record our observations.
Materials and Methods
This report on butterflies of Ladakh and Lahaul in the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Himachal Pradesh respectively is an outcome of a 12-day visit to the area to primarily survey Lepidoptera by the authors of this manuscript. While the moths recorded during the survey will be reported elsewhere, this paper reports on the butterflies recorded. The visit was conducted from 29 June 2016 to 10 July 2016. The survey strategy adopted was to cover as many habitats and altitudes as possible in Ladakh making it necessary for us to use a vehicle throughout the survey period. The route taken by us (Fig. 1, Table 1) took us through most parts of Leh District allowing us to cover its central, northern, eastern and southern parts as well as exit out of the Lahaul region in Lahaul and Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh (HP).
The methodology adopted consisted primarily of visual encounter surveys on foot in areas that we observed butterfly activity. Suitable habitats for butterflies such as alpine meadows, grasslands, crop fields and edges of stream and lakes were specifically targeted for the survey. As we did not have permission to collect specimens, we relied primarily on photographs for identification. In addition to the date and location of sightings, we also noted the times at which these individuals were encountered.
Existing literature was consulted for butterfly species identification (Marshall & de Nicéville 1882–1890; Bingham 1905–07; Swinhoe 1912–13; Evans 1927, 1932; Talbot 1939, 1947; Wynter-Blyth 1957; Cantlie 1963; Smith 1994, 2006; Mani 1986; Kinyon 2004; Tshikolovets 2005; Kehimkar 2008; Varshney & Smetacek 2015). Online sources were also consulted as aids to taxonomy and identification (Kunte et al. 2016; Savela 2016). Polunin & Stainton (1984), Stainton (1988) and the Flowers of India website were consulted to identify the flower species on which the butterflies were found nectaring.
The 12-day survey resulted in the record of 42 species of butterflies from five families and 11 subfamilies (Table 2). Many of these species are rare and found in very specialized palearctic habitats in the inner Himalaya. Of these 42 species, 12 species are protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. A checklist of the species recorded along with their locations, altitudinal range and estimated number of individuals is listed in Table 3. The summary of photographic records of these species is provided in Images 1–41.
From our brief visit, we were alarmed at the number of tourists visiting the Ladakh region. We also observed that the basic tenets of sustainable eco-tourism were not being followed, and in many areas, the habitats face a threat of excessive human use in a fragile ecosystem. Butterflies are a great indicator of the health of an ecosystem, and we hope our study and the data generated including dates and times of records, population data, as well as the locations at which they were sighted will serve as a baseline for future studies on butterflies.
The following section provides detailed information about the 42 species recorded during the survey including dates/times at which they were recorded, locations, altitudes as well as relevant natural history observations and taxonomic notes, wherever necessary. The species of flowering plant that butterflies were seen visiting are mentioned; however this consists only of the flower species that we were able to identify and does not mean that the butterfly species did not visit other flower species. The common names (following Evans 1932), as well alternative common names (ACN) in use are mentioned. The legal protection accorded to these species, under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, if any, is mentioned. Photographs of these butterfly species are included in Images 1–41. In these images, the upperside of species is only provided if this is essential in species identity. In addition, gender of the butterfly in image as male or female, if known is mentioned.
Checklist of species recorded in Ladakh and Lahaul
Family Hesperiidae, Subfamily Hesperiinae, Tribe Hesperiini
1. Hesperia comma dimila (Moore, ) (Chequered Darter)
08 July 2016, 07:30hr, Tsomoriri, altitude 4,590m—A single individual spotted by Yash at the lake’s edge. 08 July 2016, 09:30hr, below the Polo Kongka La enroute to Tsokar, altitude ~4,600m—Another individual alongside the stream. 09 July 2016, 12:13hr, meadows near Serchu, altitude 4,290m—A single individual. Reported as “widespread, except lowlands” by Tshikolovets (2005) as only one of two skippers recorded in Ladakh, the second species being Pyrgus cashmirensis.
Family Lycaenidae, Subfamily Lycaeninae
2. Lycaena phlaeas (Linnaeus, 1761) (Common Copper)
09 July 2016. 09:45hr, 15 km after Lachung La, ~4,500m; 10 July 2016, 08:16hr, Keylong meadows, Lahaul Spiti District, Himachal Pradesh, 3,000m—A few individuals spotted in the meadows at each location. Both male and female seen. Numerous subspecies of L. phlaeas in India are mentioned in literature—baralacha, flavens, indicus and stygianus (Cantlie 1963; Varshney & Smetacek 2015; Kunte et al. 2016)—but their taxonomic validity and treatment remains unclear. Lycaena phlaeas phlaeas reported as “widespread” in Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005).
Family Lycaenidae, Subfamily Polyommatinae, Tribe Polyommatini
3. Albulina lehanus (Moore, 1878) (Common Mountain Blue)
03 July 2016, 12:10hr, Khardung Village, 4,450m—A few individuals seen in grassy meadows in the company of other meadowblues (Polyommatus spp.). 04 July 2016, 11:30hr, meadow below Chang La, 4,900m—Three individuals, two males and a female. 05 July 2016, 12:33hr, enroute to Hanle, after Tara Post (Chaga La), ~4,700m—A few individuals in grassland bordering fields. 09 July 2016, meadows near Serchu, 4,290m—Numerous individuals spotted, but never in large numbers. Tendency to sit on grass clumps and clamber into the clump, making it difficult to photograph. Feeds on flower nectar. Weak flier. Reported from the mountain ranges of Ladakh, Karakoram and Rupshu by Tshikolovets (2005) in meadows between 4,500m up to 5,500m. Reported as Albulina pheretes from Nubra Valley by Sidhu et al. (2012).
4. Albulina metallica metallica (Felder & Felder, ) (Small Green Underwing)
10 July 2016, 08:16hr, 3km after Keylong, Lahaul Spiti District, Himachal Pradesh, 3,000m—males, two individuals. Based on Cantlie (1963) and Evans (1932), mentioned as Polyommatus metallica metallica, the male of this species has a 3mm sharply defined, dark border with the rest of the UPF/H being blue. A similar species, Albulina omphisa has a 4mm border, UPF and the UPH is blue only basally. The only confirmed sighting of this species during the survey. Observed mud-puddling on moist soil in the company of other meadowblues (Polyommatus spp.). Reported as “widespread except eastern and south-eastern parts” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005). This subspecies is protected under the Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
5. Albulina omphisa omphisa (Moore, ) (Dusky Green Underwing)
01–04 July 2016, South Pullu, North Pullu, Khardung Village, 4,300–4,800 m—The most common species on either side of the Khardung La. Spotted along the roadside, on the grassy meadows and at stream edges. Mostly males, often mud-puddling on moist soil. A few females seen. 04 July 2016, 09:18hr, male, near Sakti Village, 4,300m; 04 July 2016, 11:55hr, meadow below Chang La, 4,900m; 09 July 2016, 12:10hr, meadows near Serchu, 4,290m; 10 July 2016, 09:44hr, Keylong and enroute to Rohtang La—Observed feeding on nectar of the following flowering plant species-Alpine Forget-me-not Eritrichium species, Meadow Geranium Geranium pratense and Common Silverweed Argentina anserina. Reported as “widespread except eastern and south-eastern parts” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005). Only reported from Ganglis, Leh by Sidhu et al. (2012).
6. Alpherakya devanica devanica (Moore, ) (Dusky Meadow Blue)
01 July 2016, 11:13hr, South Pullu, enroute to Khardung La, 4,600m—Single male spotted at a stream in the company of a few male Dusky Green Underwing A. omphisa. Mud-puddling on moist soil at the stream edge. 03 July 2016, 11:40hr, before Khardung village, 4,400m—Ascended up a stream in a nullah and spotted a single female. Reported as “widespread except south and eastern parts” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005). This subspecies is protected under the Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
7. Polyommatus ariana Moore, 1865 (Lahaul Meadow Blue)
01 July 2016, 10:58hr, Near South Pullu, 4,600m; 03 July 2016. 12:30hr, Khardung Village, 4,450m—male; 06 July 2016, 10:38hr, Hanle, 4,500m, male; 10 July 2016, 08:39hr, Keylong, 3,000m—male, feeding on moist soil. 10 July 2016, 12:32–12:44 hr, before Rohtang La, 3,600m—2 males, mud-puddling. Seen occasionally in grassy meadows. Feeds on flower nectar. Polyommatus ariana is larger (34–38 mm), male is bright metallic blue above, with 1.5mm black border. Below grey, sub-marginal red markings nearly or quite obsolete and white markings very prominent, especially the central streak. The similar species in this landscape, Polyommatus stolickzana is smaller (30–34 mm), male is shining blue turning whitish before the narrow border. UPH: traces of black sub-marginal spots. Below pinkish-brown to grey, sub-marginal spots completely whitened or may show reddish (Evans 1932; Cantlie 1963; Tshikolovets 2005). Observed feeding on the nectar of flowers of Gentiana cf. pseudoaquatica in the grassy meadow at Khardung Village. Reported as “widespread except southern part” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005).
8. Polyommatus stolickzana (Felder & Felder, ) (Ladakh Meadow Blue)
29 June 2016, 10:19hr, Bharat Guest House, Leh, 3,500m—Only one individual sighted and photographed perhaps 30 times. 30 June 2016, 13:28hr, Leh City outskirts, 3,500m—In the fields. Female. 01 July 2016, 10:50hr, near South Pullu, 4,200m; Female. 05 July 2016, 10:03hr, near Merak, 4,250m; Male. 05 July 2016, 17:10hr, Hanle, 4,500m, in the meadows outside Hanle; 07 July 2016, 10:55hr, before Mahe Bridge, ~4,000m—Numerous males and females in grassy meadows beside a stream. Both sexes feeding on flower nectar; up to 20 individuals seen. 09 July 2016, 09:35hr, below Lachung La, 4,500m; Male, 09 July 2016, 12:22hr; Male and females, meadows near Serchu, 4,290m; 10 July 2016, 08:19hr, Keylong, 3,000m—Males mud-puddling and nectaring on thistle flowers. For separation from P. ariana, see previous species. Evans (1932) lists this species as P. drasula and as a junior synonym. Varshney & Smetacek (2015) lists this species as P. drasula. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of Geranium pratense. Reported from the central and southwestern parts of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005).
9. Plebejus samudra samudra (Moore, ) Sea Jewel Blue (Ladakh Jewel Blue)
02 July 2016, 18:55–19:20 hr, Turtuk, Nubra Valley, 3,000m—Numerous individuals spotted roosting late evening in wheat fields above Turtuk Village. A few individuals observed feeding on legume flowers. Reported as Plebeius christophi samudra by Tshikolovets (2005) from the Indus and Zanskar River valleys. Reported as Plebejus christophi from Pangong and Nyeoma, Leh by Sidhu et al. (2012).
10. Pseudophilotes vicrama vicrama (Moore, 1865) (Eastern Baton Blue) (ACN: Chequered Blue)
02 July 2016, 14:50–15:30 hr at Bogdang Village, Nubra Valley, 3,200m—Numerous individuals spotted in wheat fields in village Bogdang on the road to Turtuk from Hundar. 02 July 2016, 17:00–17:30 hr, Turtuk, Nubra Valley, 2,900m—More individuals spotted at Turtuk, amidst shrubs on the hill slopes. Weak flight, seen amongst the flowering shrubs on the hill slopes or amidst the wheat crop, feeding on flower nectar. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of the Russian Sage Perovskia abrotanoides and Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis. Weak flight; males pale blue above; female brown above. Many of the individuals had worn and tattered wings. Not recorded anywhere else. Reported from the “mountains around Indus, Dras, Suru and Zanskar river valleys” by Tshikolovets (2005). Reported from Nubra Valley by Sidhu et al. (2012).
11. Lampides boeticus (Linnaeus, 1767) (Peablue)
29 June 2016, 10:48hr, Bharat Guest House, Leh, 3,500m—single individual, 09 July 2016, 12:20hr, meadows near Serchu, 4,290m—10 July 2016, 09:23hr, Keylong, 3,000m—A few individuals sighted during the visit. All males, seen feeding on flower nectar. Reported from western and central Ladakh as “probably widespread in lowlands” by Tshikolovets (2005). This species is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
12. Celastrina argiolus kollari (Westwood, ) (Hill Hedge Blue)
29 & 30 June 2016, Leh City and surrounds. Bharat Guest house vegetable garden, crops fields in Leh City outskirts near Indus River, 3,500m, males and females. 01 July 2016, 17:10hr, Tigger, Nubra Valley, ~3,200m; Male. 2 July 2016. 14:50hr, Bogdang Village, Nubra Valley, 3,200m—Seen bordering the wheat fields. Reported from the Indus, Dras, Suru and Zanskar River valleys by Tshikolovets (2005). Sidhu et al. (2012) reported it as common in wild vegetation and agricultural fields of Ladakh.
Family Lycaenidae, Subfamily Theclinae, Tribe Theclini
13. Superflua deria (Moore, 1865) (Indian White-line Hairstreak)
10 July 2016, 08:30-09:30 hr, Keylong, 3,000m—One individual spotted at the bridge 2km after Keylong. Another individual spotted another 3km further along the road. Both individuals brown above, possibly males. Weak fliers, looking like a small Satyrid in flight. Previously treated as a subspecies of Superflua sassanides (Tshikolovets 2005) but elevated to a separate species by Churkin & Pletnev (2010). Based on Churkin & Pletnev (2010), in the species S. deria, the UNH post discal line is not wavy, but not fully straight. The white line is more prominent (more so in female) near the dorsum. White post-discal line on HW is more or less straight compared to that of S. mirabilis (Ersch.), internally edged black and looking solid, but more careful examination shows that it is slightly, indistinctly separated to several sections by the darkened veins. Other differences are in genitalia. Further work is needed on the species found in the inner Himalaya in India to clarify its taxonomic status. Originally described as Thecla deria by Moore (1865) from “Upper Kunawur” near the Spiti River. Tshikolovets (2005) reported it from Manji, Kargil District and Sonmarg.
Family Nymphalidae, Subfamily Nymphalinae, Tribe Nymphalini
14. Aglais caschmirensis caschmirensis (Kollar, ) (Indian Tortoiseshell)
10 July 2016, 12:20–12:40 hr, 10km before Rohtang La, ~3,600m—Three individuals seen on the rocky hill slopes along the road. Tshikolovets (2005) reported it as “widespread except eastern part” of Ladakh. Reported from Tsomoriri by Sidhu et al. (2012).
15. Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus, 1758) (Painted Lady)
30 June 2016, 12:00hr, Leh outskirts, 3,500m, 2–3 individuals spotted in the fields. 09 July 2016, 12:10hr, Serchu, 4,290m—Single individual seen in the meadows. 10 July 2016, Jispa to Rohtang route. Reported as a widespread migrant by Tshikolovets (2005). Reported from Diskit by Sidhu et al. (2012).
16. Vanessa indica indica (Herbst, 1794) (Indian Red Admiral)
09 July 2016, 12:10hr, Serchu, 4,290m—Single individual seen in the meadows. Not recorded by Tshikolovets (2005) but included in his checklist for Ladakh.
Family Nymphalidae, Subfamily Nymphalinae, Tribe Melitaeini
17. Melitaea arcesia amoenula Felder & Felder,  (Blackvein Fritillary)
06 July 2016, 08:00-08:30 hr, Hanle, 4500m—A small fritillary; two individuals spotted in a grass meadow with swampy area. One of the individuals was feeding on moist soil in the swampy area. Very sluggish at the time of observation; not wanting to take to wing, and easily coming onto the finger. The butterfly also has a tendency to sit with its wings open, with the forewing covering the hindwing, giving it a very “un-butterfly-like” appearance. Some authors treat Melitaea amoenula as a separate species (Tshikolovets 2005; Savela 2016). Reported as Melitaea amoenula amoenula from Zanskar, Ladakh and Rupshu by Tshikolovets (2005).
Family Nymphalidae, Subfamily Heliconiinae, Tribe Argynnini
18. Argynnis jainadeva persephone Hemming, 1934 (Highbrown Silverspot)
03 July 2016, 12:30hr, Khardung Village, 4,400m—3–4 individuals spotted seen flying above the grassy meadows. 08 July 2016, 07:47hr, edge of Tsomoriri Lake, 4,590m—A pair of butterflies were basking. Feeding on flower nectar. 08 July 2016, 09:48hr, near Namshang La, enroute to Tsokar, before Sumdo—Numerous individuals spotted along streams enroute to Tsokar. 09 July 2016, 09:37hr, 09:56hr, 10:03hr, approximately 15km after Lachung La, ~4,500m—Spotted quite a few individuals in the meadows. Both male and female, 09 July 2016, 10:54hr, 25km before Serchu, altitude 4,500m. 09 July 2016, 12:10–12:30 hr, Serchu, 4,290m—meadows just after Serchu. 10 July 2016, 13:01hr, before Rohtang La, 3,600m—a few individuals along the roadside. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of the following plant species-Catmints Nepeta species, Christolea cf. crassifolia and Wild Thyme Thymus serpyllum. Reported as “widespread except extreme north-western and southern parts” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005). Reported as Fabriciana adippe from Leh and Tsomoriri by Sidhu et al. (2012). Listed by Evans (1932) as Argynnis adippe pallida, which is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
19. Issoria isaea (Gray, 1846) (Himalayan Queen Fritillary)
10 July 2016, 12:36hr, 10km before Rohtang La, ~3,600m—A single individual seen along the road by Yash Sondhi. Tshikolovets (2005) reported Issoria lathonia lathonia as “probably widespread except high mountains” in Ladakh.
Family Nymphalidae, Subfamily Satyrinae, Tribe Satyrini
20. Aulocera swaha garuna (Fruhstorfer, 1911) (Common Satyr)
10 July 2016, 08:20–08:45 hr, Keylong, 3,000m—At the bridge, 2km after Keylong and another location 3km further on. At each location, the species was common with at least 5–6 individuals. Frequently visiting flowers to feed on nectar including thistle. Not given to flying in cloudy weather when the sun hid behind the clouds, the butterflies would disappear, only to miraculously appear a few minutes later when the sun re-appeared. This is the inner Himalaya high altitude subspecies. The subspecies is significantly different in colour and markings from the nominate subspecies A. swaha swaha, and the first author wonders whether this might actually be a different species altogether. Status as a subspecies needs investigation. Tshikolovets (2005) reported it only from Darcha-Rari, Himachal Pradesh and Sonamarg, in the area close to our sightings. Reported from Leh by Sidhu et al. (2012) without a mention of the subspecies.
21. Aulocera brahminus brahminus (Blanchard, 1853) (Narrow-banded Satyr)
10 July 2016, 11:48hr, after Khoksar, between Keylong and Rohtang La, ~3,000m—Seen commonly in flowering fields and meadows as well as along the motorable road at two locations. At each location, the species was common with at least 5–6 individuals. Frequently visiting flowers including thistle. 10 July 2016, 12:20hr, below Rohtang La, altitude 3,600m. The satyr was seen on the rocky hill slopes along the road, opening its wings to bask. This species is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Observed feeding on the nectar of flowers of Smooth Catmint Nepeta cf. laevigata and Senecio cf. chrysanthemoides. Tshikolovets (2005) reported it from the western and southern part of Ladakh.
22. Callerebia kalinda kalinda (Moore, 1865) (Scarce Mountain Argus)
10 July 2016, 12:21hr, 10km before Rohtang La, ~3,600m—A few individuals were seen on the rocky hill slopes along the road. Tshikolovets (2005) reported it as Parasa kalinda kalinda on the “western and south-western slopes of the Great Himalaya”. This subspecies is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
23. Hyponephele brevistigma brevistigma (Moore, 1893) (Short-branded Meadowbrown)
03 July 2016, 10:37–10:58 hr, below North Pullu, 4,000m. 11:22hr, stream below Khardung Village, altitude ~4,420m—A few butterflies seen along the road edges on rocky hill slopes and at the stream edge. Feeds on flower nectar. Inhabits the same area, repeatedly returning to the same clump of flowers to feed. Best separated from the similar species H. davendra by the shorter brand in H. brevistigma, UPF in male, more prominent discal line and two equal-sized ocelli UNH in 2 and 5 in H. brevistigma; ocelli are much smaller in H. davendra. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of Wooly Catmint Nepeta floccosa. Tshikolovets (2005) reported it from Zanskar and Ladakh mountain ranges.
24. Hyponephele pulchra (Felder & Felder, ) Dusky Meadowbrown
10 July 2016, 09:00–12:45 hr, Keylong enroute to Rohtang La along the road in all locations, ~3,000–3,600 m—Numerous individuals and both sexes observed feeding on moist spots and flower nectar on rocky, crumbling hill slopes, meadows and even road edges with little vegetation. Generally a weak flier, but can fly fast and over long distances if threatened. Both sexes, best separated from H. pulchella by presence of UNF/UPF dark discal line, less distinct in male; stronger in female. Male pulchra: UPF: brown-dusted on dull tawny patch. Tawny patch may be almost entirely brown. Female pulchra: brighter tawny, but less so than pulchella. Both sexes of pulchella brighter tawny, UPF. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of Wild Thyme Thymus serpyllum. Reported as Hyponephele pulchra pulchra from the southwestern part of Great Himalaya by Tshikolovets (2005), an area which is close to the sightings reported by us in Lahaul District, Himachal Pradesh.
25. Hyponephele pulchella pulchella (Felder & Felder, ) Tawny Meadowbrown
01 July 2016, 09:35hr, Enroute to Khardung La, below South Pullu, 4,200m—Seen in the same habitat of Tawny Rockbrown Pseudochazara lehana. 09 July 2016, 09:56hr, approximately 15km after Lachung La, 4,500m—Spotted a few individuals in the meadows. A similar species seen in similar habitat is Dusky Meadowbrown H. pulchra. See notes in H. pulchra. Reported as “probably widespread” on the mountain ranges of Zanskar, Ladakh and eastern slopes of Greater Himalaya by Tshikolovets (2005).
26. Karanasa cf. huebneri (Felder & Felder, ) (Tawny Satyr)
09 July 2016, 10:54hr, 25km before Serchu, ~4,400m—A few individuals seen in scrub habitat on the hill slopes bordering the road. Evans (1932) listed K. huebneri huebneri as the subspecies recorded from the Astor-Lahaul region. Tytler (1926) treated astorica, balti (=leechi), pallida, modesta (=cadesia) and huebneri as valid subspecies of which the species in the Lahaul-Spiti area was ssp. huebneri. In addition, Varshney & Smetacek (2015) also listed ssp. expressa from the Ladakh area. Some authors (Tshikolovets 2005; van Gasse 2013) treat these sub-species as valid species. The taxonomic status of the various species/subspecies needs clarification. Reported as K. huebneri huebneri from Serchu and Kargil by Tshikolovets (2005).
27. Paralasa mani mani (de Nicéville, 1881) (Yellow Argus)
03 July 2016, 16:00–16:20 hr, 10km below South Pullu, ~4,200m—A pair of individuals seen on rocky hill slopes. 09 July 2016, 09:39hr, approximately 15km after Lachung La, ~4,500m—Grassy meadows. A few individuals. 09 July 2016, 11:01hr, 25km before Serchu, ~4,500m—Grassy meadows. 09 July 2016, 10:40hr, Serchu, 4,290m—Grassy meadows. Weak flier. Observed feeding on flower nectar. When seated with its wings closed, the butterfly conceals its forewings under the hindwings, possibly to hide its bright orange discal patch on UNF. Reported as “widespread except eastern and south-eastern parts” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005). This species is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
28. Pseudochazara lehana (Moore, 1878) (Tawny Rockbrown)
01 & 03 July 2016, 08:40–10:11 hr, 10km from Leh towards South Pullu, ~4,000–4,200 m—Multiple sightings along the road. 09 July 2016, 09:40hr, 15km below Lachung La, ~4,500m—The butterflies were seen in dry, rocky habitat with some flowering shrubs. Feeds on flower nectar. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of Scorzonera virgata and Crepus cf. flexusa. One individual constantly flicked its wings open after sitting to flash its orange marking UPF/H. Reported from the mountain ranges of Zanskar, Ladakh and Karakoram by Tshikolovets (2005).
Family Pieridae, Subfamily Pierinae, Tribe Pierini
29. Baltia butleri butleri (Moore, 1882) (Two-spotted Dwarf; ACN: Butler’s Dwarf)
04 July 2016, 11:45hr, below Chang La, ~ 4,900m—Single male spotted at a grassy meadow, a 15-minute drive from Chang La on the Durbuk side on the Leh-Pangong Lake road. The butterfly flew weakly across the meadow, but was swept along with the wind and Sanjay Sondhi (SS) had to follow it for a fair distance. SS had just one opportunity to photograph it, before the butterfly was wind-swept along the meadow again. Reported “as widespread except north-western part” of Ladakh by Tshikolovets (2005). This subspecies is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
30. Pontia callidice kalora (Moore, 1865) (Lofty Bath White) (ACN: Peak White)
3 July 2016, 12:42hr, Khardung Village, 4,400m—2–3 individuals spotted at the meadow. Female photographed, 08 July 2016, 08:08hr, Tsomoriri, 4,590m. Female, 9 July 2016, 13:20hr, Serchu, 4,290m—A single female seen in the meadows. No males sighted. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of Gentiana cf. pseudoaquatica in the grassy meadow at Khardung village. Reported as “widespread in high mountains” by Tshikolovets (2005). Reported by Sidhu et al. (2012) from Khardung La.
31. Pontia chloridice (Huebner, ) (Lesser Bath White)
01 July 2016, 15:49hr, below Khardung Village, ~4,350m—Single individual spotted and followed at a meadow with dry scrub alongside the road below Khardung Village, on the Nubra Valley side. 02 July 2016, 08:10hr, near Tigger, Nubra Valley, 3,200m—2–3 individuals spotted feeding on flower nectar alongside the road. 04 July 2016, 12:43hr, below Chang La, , ~4,200m; 05 July 2016, 08:38hr, near Merak Village, 4,200m—Spotted a single individual along the bare scrub on the banks of the Pangong Lake. Observed feeding on nectar of flowers of the Russian Sage Perovskia abrotanoides and Christolea cf. crassifolia. Reported from the “mountains around Shyok, Indus, Dras and Zanskar river valleys” by Tshikolovets (2005). Reported by Sidhu et al. (2012) from Nubra Valley. The subspecies P. chloridice alpina is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
32. Pontia daplidice moorei (Roeber, ) (Bath White)
29 June 2016, 09:43hr, 10:41hr. Bharat Guest House, Leh, 3,500m—Quite common. Up to 10 individuals. Both sexes observed feeding on nectar of flowers of Aster species. 30 June 2016, Leh outskirts, 3,500m—Up to 10 individuals recorded. 07 July 2016, 11:12hr, Mahe Village enroute to Tsomoriri, 4,040m. Single individual, 09 July 2016, 10:45hr, meadows 25km before Serchu, 4,290m—single individual. Tshikolovets (2005) reported Pontia daplidice daplidice as “widespread in lowlands”. Reported by Sidhu et al. (2012) from Leh and Chilling.
33. Pieris brassicae nepalensis Gray, 1846 (Large Cabbage White)
29, 30 June 2016, 09:00hr onwards. Bharat Guest House, Leh, 3,500m—The most common pierid. Between 10–20 individuals, including mating pairs. Observed egg-laying on cabbage in the guest house’s vegetable garden, and numerous larvae were seen feeding on the cabbage. Quite a few chrysalises were found on the walls of the guesthouse. Photo-documentation of various stages of the life cycle of this species from Ladakh is provided in Image 42. 30 June 2016, 13:30hr onwards, Leh City outskirts, 3,500m—In the fields. Very common. 02 July 2016, 09:49hr, 13:21hr, on the Diskit-Hundar road in Nubra Valley, 3,200m—Seen in the fields and at stream edges. 07 July 2016, 12:00hr, Mahe Village enroute to Tsomoriri, 4,040m—Large numbers in the company of Pieris deota. 10 July 2016, 08:00hr onwards, Jispa to Manali, ~3,000m—Many individuals sighted in village fields enroute. Reported as “widespread” by Tshikolovets (2005). Reported as very common in agricultural fields of Ladakh by Sidhu et al. (2012).
34. Pieris canidia indica Evans, 1926 (Indian Cabbage White)
29 June 2016, 12:57hr, Bharat Guest House, Leh, 3,500m—Only one individual. In the cabbage patch where Pieris brassicae was observed. 30 June 2016, 12:00hr onwards. Leh outskirts, 3,500m—A couple of individuals in the mustard fields. 09 July 2016, 12:20hr onwards, Serchu-Keylong route, ~4000m—Many individuals seen in vegetable (cabbage, mustard) fields alongside the road. 10 July 2016, 08:30hr onwards, Jispa to Manali, ~3,000m—Many individuals sighted in village fields enroute. A similar species. Pieris rapae, which is supposedly common in this landscape, was searched for extensively, but not recorded. Sidhu et al. (2012) reported only a single individual of P. rapae from Diskit. Pieris canidia indica reported from the Dras, Indus and Zanskar river valleys by Tshikolovets (2005). This species was reported as moderately common in agricultural fields around Leh by Sidhu et al. (2012).
35. Pieris deota (de Nicéville, ) (Kashmir White)
07 July 2016, 11:30-12:30hr, Mahe Bridge, 4,040m, enroute to Tsomoriri. At the Mahe bridge, we encountered dozens of cabbage whites (Pieris spp.) flying around near the bridge. Most of these looked like Large Cabbage White Pieris brassicae nepalensis, but three to four individuals had very prominent black borders, UPF/H, visible even in flight. These individuals were female Kashmir White Pieris deota. Females of this species can be told even in flight with experience on account of their black borders above. Males of this species are difficult to tell apart in flight, but have a narrow black border, UPH, which the similar-sized P. brassicae lacks. Both sexes are heavily dusted with black on UNH and apex UNF. In the same area, we also spotted a few males, though on a few occasions, we spotted what seemed to be P. brassicae, attempted courtship with the female P. deota, but was never observed mating. We believe that this was just aggressive behaviour on part of male P. brassicae. The female P. deota was observed egg-laying on Lepidium sativum (Brassicaceae), which was abundant in the area. This family of plants is known to serve as larval host plants for a variety of Pieridae species, and a similar species Lepidium draba serves as the host plant for Pieris brassicae (Robinson et al. 2010). We spotted dozens of larvae of P. deota on Garden Cress Lepidium sativum. While Watanabe (1998) illustrated the life cycle of this species from China, no mention was made of the name of its larval host plant. Hence, there is no published information on the larval host plant of P. deota and Robinson et al. (2010) do not list any known larval host plant for deota. Photo-documentation of various stages of the life cycle of this species from Ladakh is provided in Image 43. 08 July 2016, 07:28hr, Tsomoriri Lake, 4,595m—Enroute to Tsokar near Puga, altitude 4,300m. A few individuals of P. deota, including a male, were observed on the banks of Tsomoriri, as well as enroute to Tsokar, but at no other location other than Mahe was there such a large congregation of cabbage whites. Evans (1932) lists this species as “rare” and recorded from “Kashmir to Ladak”. Talbot (1939) states that this “inhabits desolate plateau, and occurs in single specimens”. Tshikolovets (2005) reported this from only a few locations during his survey, and stated that its “distribution in Ladakh needs clarification”. He also reported it as univoltine, and flying between June and August. Khan & Hanif (2016) report this species as “common” and flying in August from neighbouring Pakistan. This species is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Family Pieridae, Subfamily Coliadinae
36. Colias eogene eogene Felder & Felder, 1865 (Fiery Clouded Yellow)
04 July 2016, 11:30hr, below Chang La, ~ 4,900m—Single female spotted at a vast alpine meadow. The butterfly flew across the wind-swept meadow, sat only for a minute, feeding on moist soil, before taking off and disappearing in the distance. Rapid flier. Tshikolovets (2005) reported this as “widespread, except southern and south-eastern parts” of Ladakh. This species is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
37. Colias erate erate (Esper, 1805) (Pale Clouded Yellow)
29 June 2016, 09:30hr onwards, Bharat Guest House, Leh, 3,500m—Between 10–15 individuals spotted in the garden bordering the guest house. Males and females (yellow form) and white form female pallida seen. At 10:35hr, spotted a female laying eggs. The larval host plant was a legume that could not be identified with certainty but seemed like a species of Melilotus. 30 June 2016, 12:00hr onwards, Leh outskirts, 3,500m—In fields. Common. Males and females. White females, form pallida common. 10 July 2016, Keylong to Rohtang route, 3,000m—A few individuals sighted in village fields enroute, after Serchu. Reported by Tshikolovets (2005) from the “central and north-western parts” of Ladakh but noted that it was “probably everywhere”. Our records show that it is also found in the southern parts of the study area. Reported as commonly seen in agricultural fields around Leh by Sidhu et al. (2012).
38. Colias fieldi fieldi Ménétriés, 1855 (Dark Clouded Yellow)
09 July 2016, 12:30hr, Meadows near Serchu, 4,290m—A few individuals seen in grassy meadows. 10 July 2016, 08:30hr onwards—Jispa, Keylong to Rohtang La. Many individuals sighted in village fields enroute and near Keylong. Males and females seen. Reported by Tshikolovets (2005) from the “western and central parts” of Ladakh but noted that it was “probably widespread”. Our records show that it is also found in the southern parts of the study area.
39. Colias ladakensis ladakensis Felder & Felder, 1865 (Ladak Clouded Yellow)
05 July 2016, 12:10hr onwards, before Chaga La (Tara Post), 4,500m—In this area, largely sandy hillocks with large clumps of flowering Caragana versicolor, we spotted at least 10 males of Colias ladakensis nectaring. When the sun would hide behind the clouds, the butterflies would disappear, only to appear as the sun peeked out again, a few minutes later. Beyond Chaga La, we spotted a few other individuals along the same road, amidst clumps of Caragana versicolor. 08 July 2016, 08:10hr, Tsomoriri lake, 4,590m—A solitary male, 09:00hr, we saw a few other individuals alongside the stream below the Polo Kongka La enroute to Tsokar. 09 July 2016, 09:34hr, below Lachung La, ~4,500m—Male. In the meadow, approximately 15km after the pass. 09 July 2016, 10:54hr, Meadows 25km before Serchu, 4,500m—A few individuals. Ladakh Clouded Yellow Colias ladakensis male is bright yellow above. UPH orange cell spot. Both male and female have a row of yellow sub-marginal spots UPF/H; also visible UNF/H. UNH greenish-yellow. A similar species, Lemon Clouded Yellow Colias thrasibulus thrasibulus male is pale lemon yellow above. UPH lacks orange cell spot. Reported by Tshikolovets (2005) from the “central and south-western parts” of Ladakh. This subspecies is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Family Papilionidae, Subfamily Papilioninae, Tribe Papilionini
40. Papilio machaon ladakensis Moore, 1884 (Common Yellow Swallowtail)
04 July 2016, 16:00hr, Pangong. A single individual in rocky habitat with sparse vegetation. 14:30hr, Spangmik, 4250m—Single individual seen amidst agricultural fields. 07 July 2016, 09:15hr onwards, 15km from Tsomoriri towards Sumdo near Namshang La, ~4,000m—Numerous individuals active. The area we saw these individuals consisted of dry scrub bushes near a stream. The butterflies seem active well away from water in fairly dry terrain. Reported as “widespread, except lowlands” by Tshikolovets (2005). Also reported by Sidhu et al. (2012) from Tsomoriri.
Family Papilionidae, Subfamily Parnassiinae, Tribe Parnassiini
41. Parnassius jacquemontii jacquemontii Boisduval, 1836 (Keeled Apollo)
09 July 2016, 10:46hr, Meadow 25km before Serchu, ~4,400m—Spotted a single individual nectaring in the meadows. Observed feeding on the nectar of flowers of Scorzonera virgata. Only two females recorded by Tshikolovets (2005) from Starzi Karu with only a handful of older records reported. This subspecies is protected under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
42. Parnassius spp (Apollo spp.)
04 July 2016, Chang La. Altitude ~ 5,000m—An Apollo sighted on the road before Chang La. A brief glimpse and photograph, which was insufficient for any identification.
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