Danaus chrysippus © K. Bormpoudaki
About Βutterflies and Moths of Crete
Butterflies and Moths of Crete
Welcome to the spectacular world of butterflies and moths of Crete and explore the flying wonders of the local natural heritage!
Undoubtedly, butterflies have always been an important part of Cretan biodiversity, depicted on wall paintings, rings, and seals by Minoan artists thousands of years ago.
This website aims to be a useful guide to the lepidoptera of Crete, Greece with detailed information on each species. There is also extra information about a few butterfly habitats on the island.
Finally, a very useful application for the identification of any butterflies resident in Greece (© L. N Pamperis) is available.
Scene of tree worship. 1600-1500 BC, Heraklion Arch. Museum
Zerynthia cretica (endemic) – photo © Christodoulos Makris
Butterflies of Crete – Species
- 45 resident species of butterflies and 2 regular migrants – Vanessa cardui (Painted Lady) and Danaus chrysippus (African Monarch).
- 4 of them are endemic – Zerynthia cretica (Cretan Festoon), Hipparchia cretica (Cretan Grayling), Coenonympha thyrsis (Cretan Small Heath), and Kretania psylorita (Cretan Argus).
There are 236 butterfly species resident in Greece (L.Ν. Pamperis, 2023), and is thus one of the countries in Europe with the richest butterfly fauna.
Moths of Crete – Species
More than 1200 moth species can be found on the island of Crete, in a wide range of habitats. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 moth species worldwide, many of which have yet to be described. Most species of moth are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species. Moths are found everywhere; from the seaside to almost bare mountain tops, in fact wherever there are plants for caterpillars to eat.
More photographs and detailed information on 450+ moth species on the island of Crete are also available on the species pages; these are listed here in alphabetical order (A-Z).
Camptogramma bilineata – photo © K. Bormpoudaki
Kretania psylorita (endemic) – photo © K. Bormpoudaki
Lepidoptera and the Ecosystem
Butterflies and moths are indicators of biodiversity and a healthy environment. They are fragile, so they react quickly to environmental changes. Therefore, their struggle to survive is a serious warning about the environment.
For example, pesticides used in agriculture, habitat change, and loss as well as climate change are the biggest threats to lepidoptera today. Their habitats have been destroyed on a massive scale, and now patterns of climate and weather are shifting unpredictably in response to pollution of the atmosphere.
But the disappearance of butterflies is more serious than just a loss of color in the countryside. It is said that in the last fifty years, butterfly populations have declined by really high percentages. And most importantly, we should know that butterflies are today facing the very real prospect of extinction.
Many Lepidoptera are closely linked to specific plants and habitats. So an increase or decrease in their diversity is a sign of the changing quality of a place and the impact of that change on fauna.
Adults and caterpillars are an important element of the food chain. They are food for many predators, including other insects, songbirds, mice, lizards, turtles, spiders, etc.
In addition, the larvae of a few butterflies eat harmful insects, and a few are predators of ants, while others live as mutualists in association with ants.
Though butterflies and moths may not be as efficient as bees in pollinating plants and crops, butterflies certainly do their fair share in bringing about seed and fruit production.
Coenonympha thyrsis (endemic) – photo © K. Bormpoudaki
Hipparchia cretica (endemic) – photo © K. Bormpoudaki
Adult butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. They are often polymorphic, and many species make use of camouflage, mimicry, and aposematism to evade their predators. And some, like the African Monarch and the Painted Lady, migrate over long distances.
Many butterflies and moths are threatened by parasites or parasitoids, including wasps, protozoans, flies, and other invertebrates, or are preyed upon by other organisms. In addition, some species are pests because, in their larval stages, they can damage domestic crops or trees; other species are agents of pollination of some plants. But the most important threats that lepidoptera face are habitat loss and destruction.
Butterfly and moth species should also be protected against the developing worldwide trade in butterflies which is growing fast due to the lack of restrictions on collecting, importing, buying, or selling lepidoptera. Endemic, rare, and threatened species are more vulnerable because of their high demand in this market.