Most people, at some time in their lives, have marveled at the beauty and grace of a butterfly darting from flower to flower, or have looked on in fascination at a moth drawn to the flickering light of a candle. In recognition of South Africa's rich variety of lepidoptera, its Post Office issued a set of 10 stamps featuring moths and butterflies.
"We feel that this is a critical stage in our efforts to spotlight how beautiful and interesting our local Lepidoptera are, and how worthy of care and conservation. We hope that the stamps will help promote this and increase public awareness of butterflies and moths, and pique their curiosity," reported to StampNews the butterfly expert Steve Woodhall, who took part in the stamps creation.
In South Africa, there are about 670 butterfly species, of which 6% (40 species) are listed in the latest Red Data Book. Two species have already become extinct, three are listed as critically endangered, six are endangered and 29 are vulnerable.
The butterflies and moths depicted on the stamps, were chosen for "conservation status (rare and endangered), endemicity, and beauty", says Woodhall, who helped to choose the species.
The butterflies depicted are:
Aeropetes tulbaghia or Table Mountain Beauty, large, spectacular and easy to see in the mountain scenery, from Cape Town to the Soutpansberg. It is almost endemic to South Africa - found only here and in Zimbabwe and is the sole pollinator for the Red Disa orchid. It is an icon of South African threatened ecosystems.
Alaena margaritacea, the Wolkberg Zulu belongs to the Lycaenidae family. It is endemic to South Africa, where it is only known from grassy slopes adjoining afromontane forest in the Haenertsburg area near the Wolkberg in Limpopo. It is under severe threat from alien tree plantations, as only two colonies are known to exist.
Erikssonia edgei, Waterberg Copper - a butterfly of the Lycaenidae family –recently caused considerable excitement among lepidopterists. This butterfly, which was thought to have become extinct, was rediscovered in early March this year at the Bateleur private nature reserve north-west of Bela-Bela.
Lepidochrysops lotana or Lotana Blue is a species of butterfly in the Lycaenidae family. It is endemic to South Africa, where it is only known from two localities in the Limpopo province - on the western slope of the Ysterberg and from Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve to Serala Forest in the Wolkberg area.
Chrysoritis dicksoni or Dickson's Copper is a species of butterfly in the Lycaenidae family. It is endemic to South Africa, where it is only known from near Witsand in the Western Cape. Previously, it was also found north of Cape Town. It is sometimes separated in the monotypic genus Oxychaeta.
Kedestes barberae bunta or Barber's Cape Flats Ranger is a butterfly of the Hesperiidae family. It is only known from one small locality at Strandfontein, near Cape Town.
Trimenia malagrida malagrida or the Scarce Mountain Copper is a butterfly of the Lycaenidae family. It was once found near Lion's Head in Cape Town, and is feared to be extinct.
Charaxes marieps or Marieps Emperor is restricted to afromontane forest in Mpumalanga, south of the Olifants River (centred on Mariepskop) to Sabie.
Colotis erone or the Coast Purple Tip is found in coastal lowland forests and wooded savannah from Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape along the coast to Durban in KwaZulu-Natal and as far as Mozambique.
Leto venus Leto is a monotypic moth genus of the family Hepialidae. The only described species is L. venus which is endemic to South Africa. The larval food plant is Virgilia.