A short visit to Tenerife, April 1997

In the map below red triangles indicate places of particular note which I visited in my short visit to Tenerife. There is a brief description of each place together with links to some of the pictures I took below the map.

By clicking relevant areas of the map you can see details of the species I saw there.

Los Christianos Puerto de la Cruz San Andres Anaga Los Gigantes Masca Choose an area.

Tenerife is the biggest of the Canary islands which are situated in the Atlantic a few hundred miles off the coast of North Africa.

It has a wide range of climates from semi-desert along the West and South coasts, to a Pine forest layer at about 1000m, to a little remaining Laurel forest in the North to the barren volcanic landscape of Mount Teide (at 3800m the highest point in 'Spain').

The endemic species are of interest as some have clearly evolved from mainland species of Africa and Europe, whereas others seem to be entirely unique, e.g. Cyclyrius webbianus has no close relations nearer than Mauritius.


Masca is situated in the mountains above the acc.. de los Gigantes in a very spectacular situation indeed. There is a new road built through the valley between Santiago del Teide and Teño. The views all around are breathtaking. At a height of 800-1200m the vegetation is much greener than near the coast and as a result the Canary skipper, Thymelicus christi, is fairly abundant on grassy areas. Unfortunately the day I was up there was too windy for photography and so I have no picture of T. christi, which is a smaller paler version of T. lineola. Also flying near the village were V. atalanta, V. cardui, P. xiphioides, P. rapae and P. daplidice.

Bath white (35K)

Pontia daplidice

Los Gigantes

Los Gigantes is a small resort town on the West coast of Tenerife affording views of La Gomera and the spectacular Acc de Los Gigantes. The butterflies flying here are in two parts, those in the centre of the town and those above on the mountainsides.

African grass blue (37K)

Zizeeria knysna

Within the town centre there are a number of species attracted to the shrubs and flowers in gardens of hotels and the like. Particularly the African migrant, Catopsilia florella which was present in good numbers and was not to be seen in 'natural' habitat, also African grass blue, Zizeeria knysna shared some of the same flower beds as C. florella. It was very strange standing in the middle of an ornamental flower bed trying to take photos of these species. Also flying in the town as they seem to be flying most places on Tenerife were Small white, Pieris rapae and Bath white, Pontia daplidice.

African migrant (38K)

Catopsilia florella

In the hills immediately above Los Gigantes, especially along the banks of the numerous water channels were large numbers of Canary blue, Cyclyrius webbianus and Long-tailed blue, Lampides boeticus. They seem to be attracted to the more luxuriant vegetation promoted by the water, everywhere else nearby is semi-desert.

Canary blue (22K & 25K & 25K)

Cyclyrius webbianus

Playa de las Americas

A large sprawling and quite unpleasant resort, not the sort of place I would ever normally visit, however this is one of the places on Tenerife where Monarchs, Danaus plexippus are most likely to be seen. There were always ones and twos gliding effortlessly down the streets and settling occasionally on flowers and plants in gardens and flower beds. A real beauty in an horrible place!


Canary speckled wood (46K)

Pararge xiphioides

Anaga is the name I've adopted for the last remaining Laurel forest on Tenerife. It is basically a steep sided ridge plunging to the West and East down to the sea, again like Masca breathtakingly spectacular. In this area live the remaining species on Tenerife endemic to the Canary islands. The far north end of the ridge was unfortunately shrouded in mist on my visit but further south towards Las Mercedes the clouds cleared and the temperature rose, enormously. I wandered a ride on the north west side of the ridge and there were numerous Canary speckled wood, Pararge xiphioides, Canary red admiral, Vanessa vulcania and a few Canary large white, Pieris cheiranthi.
Vanessa vulcania was particularly impressive graciously flying with V. atalanta to demonstrate how very different the two species look when close together. In addition to these species also flying were Canary Brimstone, Gonepteryx cleobule, Small copper, Lycaena phlaeas, Canary blue Cyclyrius webbianus, Canary speckled wood, Pararge xiphioides and Painted lady, Vanessa cardui.

Canary red admiral (29K & 26K)

Vanessa vulcania

San Andrés

Long-tailed blue (36K)

Lampides boeticus

To the East of the Anaga ridge is the small fishing village of San Andrés, more notable for a very nice man made beach, if you like that sort of thing! It is only being mentioned because behind the beach was nice grassy wasteland on which I saw my only Clouded yellow, Colias crocea and Spanish brown argus, Aricia cramera of the trip. These were joined by the ubiquitous P. daplidice, P. rapae, L. boeticus and a few L. phlaeas.

Puerto de la Cruz
A large town, more pleasant than the resorts in the South, the same species as mentioned in Los Gigantes were present with a few additions. Vanessa vulcania, Pieris cheiranthi and Pararge xiphioides were also seen in the Botanical gardens of the edge of the town, presumably as the native forest has been removed form this part of the island they are hanging on in marginal habitat.

Canary large white (22K)

Pieris cheiranthi

Mount Teide

The National Park of mount Teide is a very beautiful area with its lava flows and snow capped peak. I have to say other than an odd Painted lady, V. cardui I saw no butterflies the day I was up there, but for completeness around rocks called Las Cañadas Euchloe belemia are to be found, and nowhere else on the island.

For further information check out the reference below or email me.

Simon Coombes


The butterflies of the Canary Islands. Martin Wiemers Linneana Belgica XV no.2

Thanks to Guy Van der Poel and Bart Vanholder.


© All pictures in these pages copyright to Simon Coombes. Permission must be sought and obtained for any use.



© All pictures in these pages copyright to Simon Coombes. Permission must be sought and obtained for any use.