The butterfly valley of Rhodes
Deep red overwings make an impressive sight.
One of the most popular summer tourist attractions on Rhodes is found not on the sea shore but deep inland at the 'Valley of the Butterflies'.
The valley is located on the west of the island about five kilometres south of the village of Theologos and the butterfly valley is one of the most attractive destinations found on the island.
A popular target of coach trippers the Valley of the Butterflies, or Petaloudes as it is called locally is home to thousands of butterfly-like moths during the high summer months.
The Greeks prefer to call them butterflies rather than moths for promotional reasons but nevertheless the Jersey tiger moths (Euplagia quadripunctaria) are quite beautiful creatures.
The caterpillars are nondescript and feed on the foliage of the bushes and trees of arbutus, myrtle and rush.
But, at the end of the wet season, towards the end of May, the moths emerge in all their glory with deep red overwings that make an impressive sight when they are all in flight.
In the summer months they follow the river beds into the valley which is almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of them.
Unfortunately, the last few years has seen a marked decline in the population of the Jersey moth — and tourist visitors may be pat of the problem.
has been constantly in decline, due to several factors, one of the most important being the disturbance by visitors.
When at rest the moths are a well camouflaged and can be difficult to see, showing their attractive deep red overwings only when in flight.
To get their photographs and videos of the brilliant red display tourist visitors would often shout and clap their hands, even blow whistles, to drive the sleepy insects into the air.
The disturbance by hundreds of visitors can force the butterflies to fly all day, consuming valuable energy and harming their chances of mating and laying eggs.
Now tourists are being asked to keep the noise down and enjoy the sights without causing any disturbance. There are always a few flying around and they make an enjoyable sights anyway.
The butterflies spend the whole summer into the cool, humid habitat of the valley and mate during the last weeks of August and in September.
The females then fly out of the valley to find safe dark places among the bushes and plants to lay their .
The walk through Butterfly Valley takes about an hour and it is a very pleasant spot with plenty of shade from the overhanging trees and a well marked path that snakes through the woods past small pools and over wooden bridges that cross the River Pelekanas.
Visitors on a trip to Butterfly Valley should wear decent walking shoes as the going can be rough at times.
As the river flows down, the valley narrows and ends at a small waterfall that feeds a large pool. On the river banks are zitia, a tree species that produces an aromatic raisin, which is thought to attract the butterflies.
The valley's microclimate and its native plants creates the ideal environment for the large population of caterpillars that feed from the tender green leaves.
There is a small natural history museum at the entrance to the valley where visitors can learn about the insects and their environment as well as the valley's unique ecosystem and there is also a souvenir shop and a restaurant