Species: Sinai baton blue (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The Sinai baton blue is thought to be the smallest butterfly in the world, with a wingspan of just six to nine millimetres.
The Sinai baton blue is restricted to one tiny, mountainous, arid area in southern Sinai, Egypt, where its entire world population occupies a mere seven square kilometres. Both the adults and caterpillars feed almost exclusively on Sinai thyme (Thymus decussatus). The caterpillars of this species are sometimes tended by ants, in return secreting sugary droplets which the ants consume. The Sinai baton blue caterpillars pupate in the soil beneath their host plant over winter, emerging as adults between May and mid-June.
The Sinai baton blue is under threat from climate change, which may further reduce its already limited habitat. It is also vulnerable to human disturbance and the collection of its host plant for medicinal purposes. Fortunately, this tiny butterfly occurs entirely within the St Katherine Protectorate, where efforts are underway to protect both the butterfly and its host plant. Action is also being taken to increase public awareness of the Sinai baton blue, which is considered to be a flagship species for the area.
Find out more about the conservation of the Sinai baton blue at the Sinai Baton Blue Butterfly Conservation Project.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author