A Butterfly Expedition at City Park, Nairobi

Green-banded Swallowtail by P. Usher

As participants gathered at the Park entrance we were treated to a pair of skipper butterflies, doing quick hops around a short duranta bush. Immediately we are introduced to the first lesson of the day; you can tell a butterfly’s family by how they fly. According to the expert present, the Skipper butterflies belong to the Hesperiidae family.

Borbo Skipper Butterfly, Source: Kenya Natural History Guide.

The look of the skipper butterfly had a few of the participants wondering what is the difference between a butterfly and a moth? Although they belong to the same order, Lepidoptera, the differences can be noticed.

  1. At a closer look the most distinguishing feature appears on the antennae. All butterflies have the antennas ending in a club shape while those of a moth are threadlike, feathery or may taper to a point.
  2. Most moths are seen at night, while butterflies are seen during the day.
  3. Their resting wing position; butterflies rest with their wings closed while moths rest with their wings open.
  4. Moths tend to have sticky and furry bodies, while butterflies appear smooth and lean.
Left: Zodiac Moth, Right: Monarch Butterfly Source: Australian Butterfly Sanctuary]

As we walked along the banks of the river, we were able to spot two different genera of butterflies. There was Junonia and Bicyclus of the Nymphalidae family flying slowly among low-lying shrubs, these are easy to catch and to photograph. The second genus was the Papilio of the Papilionidae family (swallowtail). Their distinct clear colors ranging from blue to white colors the sky above as these high fliers love to fly up above among the tall trees.

A Bicyclus species at City Park | Source: Sese Joshua

The display of different butterflies, dragonflies, and other invertebrates is a good sign that City Park is still naturally healthy. As our expert guide on butterflies, Sese Joshua, put it, “invertebrates are the small organisms that run the world.”

The two common Papilio butterflies found at City Park were Papilio ophidicephalus and Papilio bromius consecutively. [Source: Sese Joshua]

by Karimi Kimathi and Sese Joshua

Tags: , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply