19 July 2022

Common Scarlet – Wadi Tarj

Whilst birding Wadi Tarj I photographed a Common Scarlet Axiocerces harpax kadugli. This Afrotropical butterfly is only found north of the Sahara, ranging from Senegal, Central Africa and along the eastern coast, southern Arabia in the Asir and Dhofar areas. It is about 35 mm in size and flies year-round. It uses various habitats from forest to mixed acacia woodland, savannah and thorn bush to wadis. Its upperwing is scarlet and black but the underwing is very different and is orange coloured with white spots surrounded by black. Ssp. kadugli is distributed north of the nominate and other subspecies in a narrow band from Mauretania via Chad to the Sudan and other arid parts of East Africa. It is therefore rather curious to find that in the Asir (where Wadi Tarj is located) and Yemen the species is most common above 1500 m to 2700 m but going as high as 3200 m. There are phenotypical differences between the Dhofar population and those of Yemen, but not enough is known about possible seasonal variations in the area. The main host plants of the Common Scarlet are Acacia species