Apharitis Cilissa (Mt. Meron, Protected)

Apharitis Cilissa butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

Backwards. Backwards for me, at least. June 2013 and I am booked in quarters at SPNI‘s Mt. Meron field house. Good. several days to photograph butterflies on this very special mountain at the tippy top of north central Israel.

I began working the trails in the SPNI’s own natural reserve. Apharitis cilissa greet me along much of the trail. Hmm, they do resemble Apharitis m. (already posted in winged beauty), but no, they are not the same species. The spotting here is not as bold, they are fewer in number, and they do not connect as a necklace of spots. Very good. A new species of Israeli butterfly. Taddah!

There were many of them. Flying low, the males, as we see here, perch often, and hold their perch. Tough guys, ey! Females were skittish and flew away into nearby growth, with little provocation.

Apharitis species are among those fascinating butterflies whose caterpillars have protection. They are tended by, and guarded by ants. Can you imagine? Nurseries under the watchful eye of tiny wiseguys (think Capone, Gotti, et al).

So why backwards? After seeing dozens of these little beauties, with the silvery centers of those spots that at just the right angle, shining silvery in the sun, I concluded that this was a common butterfly, seen throughout at least the north of Israel (and Lebanon, but who can know about that, considering the current situation). Went to my Israeli field guides. No, no. A protected species! What! Yes a species found only in a very limited area, that is,  where I was. And when do they fly? June and only June. Thank You! Right place, right time. And when the sun strikes their wings at just the right angle!

A protected Hairstreak! Happy days are here again. Yes it doesn’t take much to pop a big smile on my face.