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Butterflies of







Welcome to the butterflies of Romania!

Through this section of my website, I would like to promote knowledge about the Romanian butterflies and their habitats.
With time, I aim to provide images to all butterfly species occuring in Romania and I hope that my efforts (through my research and this website) will improve the knowledge on their distribution, conservation status, ecology and genetic diversity.
I invite you to explore the country's fascinating butterfly fauna and to learn more about it.

Romania - general data
With an area of 238 391 km˛ Romania is the 12th largest country in Europe (e.g. comparable in size with the United Kingdom). Romania lies in the south-eastern part of Central Europe, at the interference of the central European and Balkanic regions. The country is crossed by the Carpathians and displays a good balance of plains, hills and mountains (about a third of each). Its geographic position determines multiple biogeographic influences that make Romania the only state in the European Union having five biogeographic regions: continental, steppic, alpine, pannonian and pontic (Black Sea). Thus, considering its area and general climate (which is temperate-continental), the country has high levels of biodiversity.

Romania physical map
The relief of Romania comprises a well-balanced proportion of plains, hills and mountains. This determines a high diversity of habitats supporting good levels of biodiversity. The main subdivisions of the Romanian Carpathains  are indicated. I will sometimes refer to them when talking about the general distribution of certain species.
Romanian Lepidoptera
Until 2006, when the latest addenda and corrigenda (Rákosy & Goia 2007) to the Catalogue of Romanian Lepidoptera
(Rákosy et al. 2003) has been published, at least 4008 species of Lepidoptera were considered to occur in the country. This number has certainly increased during the last years and it is probably getting close to 4050 or 4100 species. Among these, 182 species represent butterflies with confirmed occurence. Other 10 to 20 have doubtful or very old records and require further studies. Synthesis works regarding the butterflies of Romania were published by Niculescu (1961, 1963, 1965, all in Romanian) and by Székely (2008, in Romanian & English) (see references at the bottom of the page). All in all, Romania´s butterfly fauna is still quite poorly known both in terms of species composition and (especially) distribution of populations.

While Romania is fairly rich in butterfly species, an even more important feature of the country´s butterfly fauna (and not only) is the still high number of  well preserved habitats hosting numerous taxa of great conservation value. For example, Romania is one of the very few European countries where all species of Phengaris (Maculinea) occur, and in some places all of them can be found over an area of only 2-3 square kilometers! Besides relief and biogeographic influences, another important factor is behind Romania´s generally high biodiversity: traditional land management. This usually involves moderate grazing, manual mowing (with a scythe) and a, generally speaking, traditional (low intensity) agriculture. These practices allowed the maintenance of a mozaic of habitats that represent a haven for numerous species, including many butterflies. Below I have tried to illustrate a minute fraction of the country´s good quality nature. More images of relevant habitats can be found visiting the webpage of each butterfly species, that I will try to improve over time and enrich with new photographs.

Unfortunately, Romania´s biodiversity is seriously threatened by a series factors that cause problems in many parts of the world. Among the most dangerous I would mention habitat destruction in favour of intensive agriculture, urbanization, poor forest management and (importantly) the abandonment of traditional land uses.

The counties of Romania . The colours largely correspond to the main historical regions of the country (see also the image below)

Romania biogeographic regions
Romania´s territory includes five of the ten biogeographic regions of mainland Europe.

Traditionally managed (i.e. manually mown & moderately grazed) hayfields represent areas that are very rich in butterfly species. Here you can see an example from Fânațele Clujului in Transylvania (Cluj county), where ca. 100 butterfly species occur on about 2  km˛. Among them one can mention all European species of Phengaris, Muschampia cribrellum, M. tessellum, Pyrgus sidae, Pseudophilotes bavius, Eumedonia eumedon etc.

Romania historical regions
The main historical regions of Romania.

Wet mountain meadows in cold montane depressions represent a particular habitat hosting boreal species occuring in Romania close to their southern distribution limit. A good example is Valea Belchia located in the Eastern Carpathians (Harghita county), where numerous species occur, among which Lycaena hippothoe, Boloria titania, Brenthis ino and Coenonympha tullia.

Wetland clearings in deciduous forests represent a threatened habitat hosting threatened species of butterflies. The nature reserve of Dumbrava Vadului (Brașov county) hosts populations of species such as Lycaena helle, Phengaris alcon, Euphydryas aurinia, Argynnis laodice etc.

The subalpine and alpine areas of the Carpathians offer shelter for several species of Erebia and other alpine or arcto-alpine butterflies. Illustrated here is a part of the Retezat Mts. (Southern Carpathians), home of Erebia gorge, E. cassioides, E. oeme, Coenonympha rhodopensis etc.

The steppes and forest-steppes of the southeastern part of Romania (Dobrogea) represent a unique region and host numerous Lepidoptera species that reach here their northermost or westernmost distribution limit in Europe. Butterflies such as Carcharodus orientalis, Pyrgus sidae,  Allancastria cerisyi, Euchloe ausonia, Pseudophilotes bavius, Hipparchia syriaca and Kirinia roxelana can be found here. The image illustrates an area of the Măcin Mts. (Tulcea county).

Limestone areas are known for their butterfly diversity, especially when combined with a favourable climate. The image represents an area in the south-western part of Romania (Pecinișca, Southern Carpathians),  where submediterranean influences are present. This is the type locality of Erebia melas and one of the most butterfly rich areas in Romania. Taxa such as Coenonympha leander and Kirinia roxelana are here very close to their northermost distribution limits in Europe.

Sources cited on this page

Niculescu E.V. 1961. Familia Papilionidae (Lepidoptera). Ed. Academiei R.P.R., București. Fauna R.P.R. 11(5), 105 p.
Niculescu E.V. 1963. Familia Pieridae (Lepidoptera). Ed. Academiei R.P.R., București. Fauna R.P.R. 11(6), 202 p.
Niculescu E.V. 1965. Familia Nymphalidae (Lepidoptera). Ed. Academiei R.P.R., București. Fauna R.P.R. 11(7), 362 p.

Rákosy L. Goia M. & Kovács Z. 2003. Catalogul Lepidopterelor României / Verzeichnis der Schmetterlinge Rumäniens. Societatea Lepidopterologică Română, Cluj-Napoca, 446 p.
Rákosy L. & Goia M. 2007. Addenda und Corrigenda zu dem Verzeichnis Rumäniens/Addenda et corrigenda la Catalogul Lepidopterelor României. Entomologica Romanica 11/2006: 69-79.
Székely L. 2008. The butterflies of Romania / Fluturii de zi din România. Brastar Print, Brașov, 305 p.
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Last updated on February 27, 2018