Butterflies' vibrant colors and gentle flight overwhelm us with feelings of wonder and joy. These beautiful flying insects have inspired artists, poets and intellectuals alike. Their wondrous life cycle, called a "complete cycle", is made up of four stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult. A complete cycle from egg to adult is called a generation. Some butterfly species produce one generation per year while others produce numerous generations within a single year. The lifespan of an adult butterfly varies among species, with adults of some species living for approximately one week and others for a number of weeks or even months. Some species are considered to be local while others migrate for distances of hundreds and thousands of kilometers.
To date, some 150,000 species belonging to the Lepidoptera order have been identified throughout the world, of which approximately 20,000 species are butterflies, and the rest are moths. In Israel there are an estimated 2,300 Lepidoptera species, including 142 species of butterflies. Mt. Hermon is the richest butterfly species site in Israel, with no less than 100 different species! Mt. Hermon is the southernmost point of distribution for 30 of these 100 species, which do not fly to any other areas in Israel.
Overall, Israel's butterfly population may be categorized into seven families. Five of those families are represented among the butterflies featured in the stamp series:
Swallowtail - Papilio machaon syriacus represents the Papilionidae family. Many members of this family display prominent colors, including black, yellow and red. These colors serve to warn birds and lizards that they are poisonous.
Red admiral - Vanessa atalanta
represents the Nymphalidae family. Like many of the species belonging to this family, this butterfly remains camouflaged as long as its wings are closed because its underwings are dull in color, revealing its bold colors only when its wings are open wide.
Caper white - Anaphaeis aurota
represents the Pieridae family of white and yellow butterflies. This butterfly's white wings are decorated with black markings. This species migrates to Israel from Africa nearly every summer and it may be seen flying throughout Israel until early winter.
Plain tiger - Danaus chrysippus
is the only representative of the Danainae family to be found in Israel. It migrates annually from Africa to Israel and belongs to the same scientific genus as the American Monarch butterfly, considered to be the most famous butterfly in the world thanks to the tremendous distances it migrates.
Common blue - Polyommatus Icarus zelleri
and Tawny silver-line - Apharitis acamas represent the largest family of butterflies in Israel –the Lycaenidae family. Like many of the males belonging to this family, the Common blue male is bright blue in color in order to attract females, while the coloring of the Tawny silver-line allows it to blend into its surroundings and remain camouflaged from its enemies.
Butterflies Assist in Biodiversity Conservation
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently declared that the threat of extinction of animal and plant species has reached a level of global crisis. Within the framework of worldwide efforts to curb extinction, butterflies have been identified as effective bio-indicators of ecosystem changes and have become an important component in natural and environmental preservation. While constant and long term monitoring of butterfly species provides information regarding the loss and extinction of rare butterflies, no less importantly, a dwindling of butterfly varieties also indicates a similar dwindling of plant species and various other animal groups. Members of The Israeli Lepidopterists Society promote national butterfly monitoring in Israel, doing so throughout the country. The Society also initiated a bill to protect 14 endangered butterflies species and a law was enacted in 2009.
Dr. Racheli Schwartz-Tzachor
Head of Butterfly and Plant Conservation
Member, The Israeli Lepidopterists Society