Small salmon arab (Colotis calais)

Small salmon arab resting on a flowering plant
Loading more images and videos...

Small salmon arab fact file

Small salmon arab description

GenusColotis (1)

The small salmon arab (Colotis calais) is a small orange butterfly found throughout arid regions of Africa and Arabia. The upper sides of its wings are deep yellow to orange, with distinctive black patterns at the edges. The undersides of its wings are much paler, with few obvious markings. At the rear, outer edge of the forewing there is a distinctive spot of black adjacent to a spot of orange (2).

Both male and female small salmon arabs bear very similar markings, although the male is slightly smaller and has a darker band of black running down the front edge of the hindwing. The orange spots on the female’s hindwing are also much larger and more pronounced than in the male (2).

The antennae of the small salmon arab are typical of most butterflies, bearing a bulbous end or club (2).

Male body length: 1.3 cm (2)
Female body length: 1.4 cm (2)
Male wingspan: 3 cm (2)
Female wingspan: 3.5 cm (2)

Small salmon arab biology

The eggs of the small salmon arab are typical for Colotis species, being long and thin, and laid in groups on a leaf of the food plant (2). The small salmon arab will lay about 30 eggs at once (6), and after hatching the caterpillars feed in groups of up to a dozen on the leaf (2). After pupation, which takes place on the same plant, the adult butterflies emerge and disperse (2).


Small salmon arab range

Found mainly in Africa, the small salmon arab has a wide distribution south of the Sahara, and it can also be found as far north as Yemen and northern Oman in the Arabian Peninsula (2) (3).


Small salmon arab habitat

The small salmon arab is found in arid areas (3) (4) (5). Like other Colotis species, it has a strong connection to its food plants, typically species in the families Salvadoraceae (tooth-brush trees)and Capparidaceae (caper plants), and is only found where these plants occur (2).  


Small salmon arab status

This species has yet to be classified by the IUCN.


Small salmon arab threats

The food plants of the small salmon arab are of local medicinal and culinary importance (4) (5). For example, Salvadora persica in particular has been used by Muslim communities for many hundreds of years. This demand, coupled with deforestation, soil degradation and overgrazing,is having a profound effect on the population levels of this plant, and so in turn on the small salmon arab (4).


Small salmon arab conservation

To control the threat to the small salmon arab’s food plant, S. persica, various management strategies have been suggested, such as the education of locals, controlled grazing and reduced access to important sites. This may help reduce the human impact on the populations of this plant (4), and go some way towards protecting the small salmon arab which depends on it.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Find out more

Find out more about butterfly conservation:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


A pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates
The process of becoming a pupa, the stage in the life cycle of some insects during which the larval form is reorganised into the adult form. The pupa is usually inactive, and may be encased in a chrysalis, cocoon or other protective coating.


  1. ZipcodeZoo (May, 2009)
  2. Larsen, T.B. (1984) Butterflies of Saudi Arabia and its Neighbours. Stacey International, London.
  3. Larsen, T.B. (1984) The zoogeographical composition and distribution of the Arabian butterflies (Lepidoptera; Rhopalocera). Journal of Biogeography, 11(2): 119-158.
  4. Sher, H., Al-Yemeni, M.N., Maarahi, Y.S., and Hussain Shah, A. (2010) Ethnomedicinal and ethnoecological evaluation of Salvadora persica L.: A threatened medicinal plant in Arabian peninsula. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 4(12): 1209-1215.
  5. Rajesh, P., Selvamani, P., Latha, S., Saraswathy, A., and Rajesh Kannan, V. (2009) A review on chemical and mediobiological applications of Capparidaceae family. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 3(6): 378-387.
  6. Ehrlich, A.H., and Ehrlich, P.R. (1978) Reproductive strategies in the butterflies: 1. Mating frequency, plugging and egg number. Journal of Kansas Entomological Society, 51(4): 666-697.

Image credit

Small salmon arab resting on a flowering plant  
Small salmon arab resting on a flowering plant

© Terry Thormin

Terry Thormin


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Small salmon arab (Colotis calais) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top