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The Valley of the Butterflies

The Valley of the butterflies is found close to the village of Theologos, at a distance of 23 kilometers southeastern to the town of Rhodes, near the Monastery of Kalopetra. The river Pelekanos flows through the valley. According to tradition, the whole valley was called “Pelekanos” after the name of a servant of the prince Alexandros Ypsilantis. The daughter of the prince suffered of tuberculosis and his father brought her in the area, so that she would recover due to the nice climate. It was him that established the Monastery of Kalopetra. The prince left back his servant, called Pelekanos, to serve and guard the girl. The girl fell in love with the servant, but his father refused to allow her daughter to marry a servant. Thus, the latter, deeply embittered, took his own life and the place was named after him.

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The locals say that the butterflies were brought in the area by the Italians in the 1930s’, but in fact, the Italians had only discovered them. The elder people of the area state that their ancestors knew that the butterflies lived in the place. Whatever the truth, the phenomenon became widely known after 1957 and ever since great numbers of visitors come to the valley to see them. Unfortunately, these visits have resulted to a dramatic reduction of the number of the insects, since the visitors make noise, clap hands or whistle in order to make them fly. But , when they fly , the butterflies loose their energy and become more susceptible to die before propagate themselves.

During the period of rains, the butterflies, still in the form of caterpillar, live on the trees of the valley, arbutus and myrtles, and are fed on the tender leaves. By the end of May, the caterpillar has already been transformed in a beautiful insect and moves towards wetter areas, flying only during the night. The butterflies stay at the valley throughout the summer. By the end of summer the insects mate and in September, while the male has already died, the female flies away (some times for more than 25 kilometers) to leave some 150 eggs in groups of 20-30, in safe and dark places among the bushes and the plants and after that it dies. Thus, the caterpillars will find abundant food and grow up quickly and they will soon become the insect known as Panaxia quadripunctaria a species belonging to the family of Night-butterflies. The adult have a size of 18 to 23 millimeters and the span of its wings reaches the 55 to 60 millimeters. When resting, it lows the head and has the shape of an equilateral triangle.

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The reduction of the population

This really beautiful butterfly has many enemies as frogs, lizards, crabs, several species of birds and above all, the bats and man. During the last years, due to the numbers of visitors who, in their desire to see the butterflies, make noise and scare them, the insects have moved to inaccessible places. As a result, they risk more and their number has been dramatically reduced.

This species of butterfly does not live only in Rhodes; it is common enough in the Mediterranean Sea, in Europe and in Western Asia. In Greece it is also found in Crete and other islands, in Attica and Boeotia. It is thought that the reason of the big number of insects found in Rhodes is due not only to the excellent climate conditions, but also to the existence in the valley of a nice and rare species of tree, called “Ygramvari”, whose aromatic raisin possibly attracts the butterflies.

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