Brilliant Butterflies in the Kingdom of Bhutan

  • Cynthia Ord
  • 4 April 2011

Bhutan has made a well-deserved place for itself on the biodiversity map; it ranks in the top 10% of countries in terms of species richness per area unit. This natural endowment is under no threat from a government committed to conservation of the natural environment. In fact, in Bhutan, 26% of the country is protected land, with another 9% designated as biological corridors that connect the protected areas. The government has also decided to leave 60% of the country under forest cover.

Given this green splendour, birds love Bhutan and ornithologists therefore consider it a prime location for catching glimpses of a long list of feathered species. In fact, the Kingdom of Bhutan sits at the heart of 221 official ‘endemic bird areas’ and the number of bird species identified in Bhutan is 670… and counting.

Even for travellers not lured in by winged friends, the lush ecosystems of Bhutan promises plenty of wildlife spotting. Snow leopards and Bengal tigers reside in the high-elevation forests, and the southern tropical jungles are home to the clouded leopard, one-horned rhinoceros, elephants and a rare primate unique to Bhutan and near environs – the golden langur.

Fluttering Beauty

Bhutan is also a fabled haven for butterflies. There are between 90 and 120 species of butterfly in Bhutan; approximately 28 of these are endemic to the eastern Himalayas. For lepidopterists, little can rival the enchantment of a flittering butterfly rising and falling among the lush plant life of Bhutan.

Yellow coster butterfly

Yellow Coster butterfly. Photo by D Momaya/wikimedia

Some butterflies, including the Yellow Coster (Acraea issora), have a lazier, weaker flight. They appear to being falling and flopping through the air, rather than flying.


Puchinello butterfly. Photo by Nature Loader/wikimedia

Punchinello butterflies (Zemeros flegyas) are on the smaller side, averaging only four centimetres in wingspan. They like tropical lowlands up to 2000 metres above sea level. As a tropical species, the Punchinello has different wet-season and dry-season forms.


HIll Jezebel butterfly. Photo by Shyamaii/wikimedia

The Delias belladonna, or Hill Jezebel, is native to the Himalaya region and thrives in the higher elevations of Bhutan. They tend to congregate, sometimes in huge numbers, and are unmistakable by virtue of their white and yellow spots.


Striped Tiger butterfly. Photo by Vijaybarve/wikimedia

This butterfly looks for the scrub jungles of Bhutan and other South Asian countries. These members of the Danaus genutia genus play dead and have an unpleasant taste. Their defences are mimicked by several kinds of lacewings.


Green Sapphire butterfly. Photo by Accassidy/wikimedia

Although Green Sapphire butterflies (Heliophorus androcles) have been spotted in Bhutan, they’re most likely to be found in India and Nepal.

Plue Pansy butterfly

Blue Pansy butterfly. Photo by J.M. Garg/wikimedia

Blue Pansy is the common name for the Junonia orithya, but in Southern Africa they are called Eyed Pansies after the circular patterns that seem to stare back at their lucky spotters.


Red Lacewing butterfly. Photo by John Pavkel/wikimedia

The Cethosia biblis, commonly known as the Red Lacewing butterfly, is native to Southeast Asia. They are known to be so docile that they even land on people.


Blue Admiral butterfly. Photo by L Shyamia/wikimediia

This butterfly species, the Kaniska canace, is widespread in Asia. It is more territorial than migratory – it will actually defend its turf by chasing away intruding butterflies! They also tend to bask in the sun.

Dark Clouded Yellow Butterfly

Dark Clouded Yellow butterfly. Photo by J.M. Garg/wikimedia

Clouded Yellows are migratory butterflies that breed on almost every continent. The most distinct characteristic of the Colias croceus is the clear black dot on the upper middle of each wing.

Painted Lady butterfly

Painted Lady butterfly. Photo by Nick Smith/wikmedia

Painted Lady butterflies are another common species found in Bhutan as well as most non-arctic parts of the world. In North America, its common name is Cosmopolitan. Scientific name: Cynthia cardui.

Glassy bluebottle butterfly

Glassy Bluebottle butterfly. Photo by L Shyamai/wikimdia

Either blue or greenish (as pictured above), Glassy Bluebottles, aka Idaides cloanthes, are quite common. They like wide open areas near water.

For an encounter with living, breathing Bhutanese nature and wildlife, great treks can be arranged through Innerbhutan, your whl.travel local connection in Bhutan, also an expert in festivals, accommodation, tours, activities and loads of local hints about the country.

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Cynthia Ord

Cynthia Ord discovered the WHL Group while interning with the local partner Outdoor Albania for a summer. She is currently based in her hometown of Denver, Colorado, helping out with The Travel Word newsletter, and planning her next trip. On the side, she writes about the impacts of tourism for her blog, tourism, people and the earth.
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adventure travel, animal conservation, Asia, Bhutan, ecotours, forests & jungles, outdoors, responsible travel, South-Central Asia, whl.travel,

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