Butterflies add colour to HK

December 30, 2018

Hong Kong is home to more than 200 butterfly species, which add a dash of colour to the city all year round due to the mild climate.


Tam Kin-chung joined the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department in 2012 and is an ecological surveyor in its Butterfly Working Group.


The Field Officer is an expert on the winged insects and is well-versed in their behaviour.


“The male butterflies usually put in a lot of effort to attract females. They try to find a plant with some special chemicals to convert them into pheromones to attract female butterflies.


“And some other butterflies, the male butterfly, will go to a hilltop. Such behaviour, we call that hill-topping. They go there to wait for a female butterfly to fly across so that they can have the courtship behaviour with them.”


Survival skills

The intricately detailed Tawny Mime is adept at imitating the appearance of the poisonous Chestnut Tiger to ward off predators, Mr Tam said.


“They have a black forewing and a brown hindwing with some pale blue colour, colour stripes on their wings.


“It is quite a beautiful butterfly but if you want to find one, it is quite difficult because the adults of Tawny Mime only appear in March and April every year. If you miss it, you will need to wait for another year to see this rare butterfly.”


Mr Tam traverses the city to collect information on butterflies and finds it meaningful to help broaden people’s knowledge about the beautiful insects and to share the importance of environmental conservation.


“Butterfly survey and investigation is very important to the public because butterflies are a part of our ecosystem.


“When there are more butterflies, it means that there are more flowers and the vegetation should be quite good in the surrounding environment. They can support the butterflies, so that they come by.


“It is very important for us to protect our environment so that more butterflies and animals can live there.”


Butterfly appreciation

There are five families of butterflies in Hong Kong, each different in shape, colour, flight pattern and other characteristics.


A diverse selection of the creatures take wing in spring and summer between April and June, and in autumn between October and November.


Butterflies are cold-blooded meaning they cannot regulate their own body temperature, so they like to bask in the sun on warm days.


Sunny periods following a rainfall is also one of the best times to watch them.


Key sites for observing butterflies include Wu Kau Tang, Lai Chi Wo, Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, Shing Mun Country Park, Pak Tam Chung, Fung Yuen Valley, Lung Kwu Tan and Victoria Peak.


Mr Tam advised those who plan to go butterfly watching to bring some essential equipment.


“You should bring a pair of binoculars. They really help you to observe and to notice the details on the butterfly’s wings.


“Also you can take a camera as well. A camera can take photo record of course and it is very useful when you want to identify a butterfly species.”


He added that people should observe the butterflies quietly and not capture any.


Since 2002, the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department has been surveying butterflies to establish a systematic database crucial to future monitoring and conservation.


More details are available at the department’s HK Biodiversity Database.

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