Dragonflies and Butterflies

The unspoiled rivers and other bodies of water in the Strait, and in the neighbouring regions of Cádiz and Malaga, hold many outstanding species belonging to the Odonata family (dragonflies and damselflies). Over 60 species occur in this European hotspot, including some of the rarest species in the continent and recent colonisers originating from Africa.

The Splendid Cruiser Macromia splendens and the Orange-spotted Emerald Oxygastra curtisii, are scarce relic survivors of wildlife that existed prior to the last ice age and can be found in the best-preserved rivers around the Strait. By contrast, the Orange-winged Dropwing Trithemis Kirbyi is one of the latest additions to the European List of Dragonflies, following a rapid northwards expansion from Africa over the last decade. It can be observed sunbathing on rocky streambeds. The Northern Banded Groundling Brachythemis impartita is widespread in La Janda, despite its very restricted range in Europe, and is one of the few dragonflies that will follow the observer rather than fly away when approached!

Other remarkable dragonflies that are present in the region include the Copper Demoiselle Calopterix haemorrhoidalis, Iberian Bluetail Ischnura graellsii, White Featherleg Platycnemis latipes, Vagrant Emperor Anax ephipigger, Epaulet Skimmer Orthetrum chrysostigma, Green Hooktail Paragomphus genei, Large Pincertail Onychogomphus uncatus and Western Spectre Boyeria Irene, to name but a few. With an appearance that is halfway between that of a butterfly and a dragonfly, the Thread-winged-Lacewing Nemoptera bipennis is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and France and for many of us it is the most beautiful insect in the Strait. Mantises are well represented here too, and the Conehead Mantis Empusa pennata is probably the most striking representative of this charismatic family, which looks especially impressive when observed at close range through a macro lens! The Monarch butterfly Danaus Plexippus is known to have reached Europe as a vagrant from the other side of the Atlantic. There is now a well-established breeding population in the Strait, where colourful imagos can be found on the wing throughout the year. The Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius, always linked to the Cork Oak forest, is, along with the Monarch, the most sought after butterfly in the Strait. The eye-catching designs of these insects make them all highly desirable targets and a source of inspiration for macro photographers.