At the second meeting of the C3A Environmental Group on 4 December, we were treated to two fascinating presentations on very contrasting insects - mosquitoes and butterflies.
First off, Kelly Martinou, Head Entomologist at RAF Akrotiri, introduced us to the intriguing world of invasive mosquitoes under the intriguing title “Should we be afraid of the tiger?”. Unlike the mammal of that name which is facing a threat to its existence, the mosquito is thriving and spreading. Kelly’s wide-ranging talk included reference to the malaria-carrying mosquito that used to plague Cyprus until it was eradicated in the 1950s There is always a risk that malaria will re emerge in countries where the malaria-carrying mosquito was endemic, as has happened in Greece.
Amongst the over 3500 species of mosquito, today’s big baddie is the Asian tiger mosquito (so-called because of its striped appearance). As we know, mosquitoes bite us (and other animals and birds) for our blood. In doing so, they can transmit diseases. Six new species of mosquitoes have been brought into Europe since 1990. The Asian tiger mosquito carries a number of nasty diseases and we would rather not have them here in Cyprus. There is also the Yellow fever mosquito which looks similar to the Asian tiger and it is the main cause of yellow fever as well as Zika.
Joint Services Health Unit Cyprus for the Sovereign Base Areas and the Public Health, Government of Cyprus have early warning systems in place around the airports, ports and early warning, rapid-response teams and, so far, there have been no records of this unwanted insect in our island.
Kelly and her colleague, Neo, then gave us the opportunity to view mosquito larvae under the microscope before ending her presentation with a Q&A session. She encouraged us to observe mosquitoes we see and send any photos we can take to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or upload to our RIS-KY facebook page. Please include collector’s name, collection site, grid references (if possible), date, time, and whether the mosquito was found indoors or outdoors.
After a welcome refreshment break, we moved on to the very different world of butterflies of Cyprus, presented by Elli Tzirkalli co-chair of the Cyprus Butterfly Study Group. There are an incredible 160,000 species of moths in the world but only 17,500 species of butterflies. We were asked how many species of butterflies there are in Cyprus and we learned there are 53 of which 3 are endemic species and 3 and endemic subspecies.
Elli then explained the main differences between butterflies and moths (the antennae and the way they fold their wings (see https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/butterflymoth.html for a complete explanation).
Some butterflies only have one host plant where they lay their eggs while other have many. We were given a beautifully produced laminated sheet showing 30 species that can be found on Akrotiri Peninsula provided by the Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre (http://akrotirienvironment.com/).
She illustrated and talked the endemic butterflies, including their habitats, breeding habits and ranges. If you want to follow up, the latin names are Glaucopsyche paphos, Hipparchia cypriensis and Maniola cypricola while the subspecies are Zerynthiacerisyicypria, Chazara briseis larnacana and Hipparchia syriaca cypriaca.
Elli then showed us some of the migrating species, including Vanessa atalanta (the Red Admiral), Danaus chrysippus (the African monarch) and Vanessa cardui (the Painted Lady). Apparently, there are no common names for butterflies in Cyprus and a member of the audience suggested this might be a good idea to involve schoolchildren in coming up with names in Greek.
Butterflies are found all over the island and at all altitudes but the best concentrations are in Paphos district due to the climate, the terrain and nature of the vegetation.
There is an active group of enthusiasts called the Cyprus Butterfly Study Group (CBSG). Anyone interested in contributing and/or receiving updates, newsletters and field trip notifications is encouraged to contact Elli at email@example.com. For those who use facebook they could become members of the CBSG facebook page. More information on the butterflies of Cyprus can be found at http://www.cyprusbutterflies.co.uk/
After some well-deserved applause from an appreciative audience, Nick from C3A thanked Kelly and Elli for their absorbing presentations and gave a small gift of chocolates to both of them.
Text by Nick Pollard on behalf of the
C3A LIMASSOL & DISTRICT BRANCH “Do you care about the environment you live in?”