Tag Archives: South African Butterflies

Ant-heap White Butterfly

Dixeia pigea

The Ant-heap White is one of those confusing kinds of butterflies where the males and females look quite different, and even differ from season to season in their appearance – in general the males are more white and the females more yellow.

They fly fairly slowly and quite fluttery, and can be seen throughout the year though they may reach extraordinary numbers in late summer and early autumn when they make for quite a spectacle as they chase each other around flowering plants in the full sun.

The larvae feed on the leaves of caperbushes, and the strong association between plants of the genus Maerua and termite-mounds is where this butterfly gets their common name. The eggs are laid in groups on the underside of the leaves of these fodder plants. Fully grown they have a wingspan of about 5cm.

Ant-heap Whites inhabit moist woodland, riverine thickets and forests and are found from the coastal regions of the Eastern Cape, throughout Kwazulu-Natal and into the Lowveld and Escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Tailed Black-eye Butterfly

Leptomyrina hirundo

The Tailed Black-eye is a little butterfly – with a wingspan less than 3cm – that often goes unnoticed, despite being quite common where it occurs, which in South Africa is in the various kinds of forests and the bushveld savanna regions of the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. They’ll even visit gardens in these parts, are quite confiding and often found in close proximity to others of its kind. They fly very near to the ground. Adults are on the wing year round, but they’re most numerous in November and March. The tiny larvae feed on succulent plants from the genera Cotyledon, Kalanchoe and Crassula – many of which are popular in local gardens – and bore into the leaf to eat out the inside before leaving the “empty” leaf for another.

Vine-leaf Vagrant Butterfly

Eronia cleodora

The Vine-leaf Vagrant is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of around 6cm (males are usually a bit smaller than the females). They fly fast and wandering, often settling quickly on flowers as they go. These beautiful butterflies may be seen year-round, though their numbers usually peak in spring and late summer. Their larvae feed on the leaves of the caper-bushes (Capparis).

In South Africa the Vine-leaf Vagrant is found in forests and moist savannas from the Eastern Cape coast, through Kwazulu-Natal and into the Lowveld and escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Scarlet Tip Butterfly

Colotis annae

The Scarlet Tip Butterfly, especially the male, is one of the most striking of its genus. Fully grown adults have a wingspan of up to 5.5cm, though this varies between the seasonal forms. Where their food plants (wormbushes Cadaba and bead-bean Maerua) are abundant Scarlet Tips may form large swarms, especially in late summer and autumn, though there are adults to be seen on the wing throughout the year. They’re often seen together with the Sulphur Orange Tip butterfly, flying similarly slowly and close to the ground and settling often. Scarlet tips inhabit a wide range of savanna vegetation types. In South Africa they’re found from the Eastern Cape through Kwazulu-Natal to Mpumalanga and Limpopo

Sulphur Orange Tip Butterfly

Colotis auxo

The Sulphur Orange Tip is a smallish butterfly with a wingspan of only about 4cm. It inhabits savanna habitats and adults may be seen year-round, being must numerous in late summer and autumn. Larvae feed on the leaves of the wormbushes (genus Cadaba). They are restless and fast fliers, usually staying close to the ground.

In South Africa the Sulphur Orange Tip is found along the coast and adjacent interior of the Eastern Cape, through most of Kwazulu-Natal, the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and throughout the Limpopo Province.

Autumn Adventure: Butterflies in abundance

Whenever we get a chance to explore South Africa’s wild places I am amazed at the variety and number of butterflies that are on show. This certainly was the case again when we visited the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in March this year.

Clouded Mother-of-Pearl Butterfly

This wonderful present came my way while I was taking a walk through Satara Rest Camp on Christmas Day last year when we were visiting the Kruger National Park for our summer holiday. Looking this butterfly up in my guide book i thought “What a beautiful name for a beautiful butterfly!

Protogoniomorpha (Salamis) anacardii

The Clouded Mother-of-Pearl is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of up to 7cm. They prefer dense habitats ranging from coastal and montane forests to riverine galleries, and in South Africa are found through coastal Kwazulu-Natal and into the Lowveld and escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Adults are seen throughout the year though their numbers reach a peak in late summer and early autumn. Their flight may seem ungainly but they’re exceptionally quick when troubled – this one gave me quite the walk-around through camp trying to take its picture. Clouded Mothers-of-Pearl love sitting exposed on prominent perches such as leaves and flowers, apparently basking in the sun – behaviour this one also displayed at least long enough so I could get a few photographs.

While visiting Cape Vidal in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in March 2022 we again encountered this beautiful butterfly, though this time a really tattered specimen.

Twin Dotted Border

Mylothris rueppellii

The Twin Dotted Border is a butterfly occurring over much of Sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa they’re found in the savanna and forest regions stretching from the Eastern Cape through Kwazulu-Natal and into Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng and North West. Adults are seen throughout the year and have a wingspan of 5-6cm. They usually fly slow and high and are fond of settling on flowers. Females lay eggs in clusters numbering up to 100, usually on the leaves of different kinds of mistletoe which are their major foodplants. The larvae are gregarious and remain together until it is time to pupate.

Blue Pansy Butterfly

Junonia oenone

The outer (under) side of the Blue Pansy’s wings blends in so beautifully with its surroundings that when this butterfly opens its wings and flashes the bright blue, red and white markings on a black background on the inside (topside) of its 5cm wingspan, it often comes as quite a surprise, especially if you didn’t notice it sitting on the bare ground or a rock, as they often do.

Blue Pansies inhabit woodland and savanna, as well as suburban parks and gardens, and occurs over the moister eastern half of South Africa. Adults may be seen throughout the year though they’re much more numerous in spring and autumn. They’re very active during the warmest hours of the day and males, which are territorial, can often be seen chasing each other and other kinds of butterflies around on hilltops.

Wanderer

Bematistes aganice

The Wanderer inhabits montane, coastal and riverine forests. It normally stays high in the canopy of lofty forest trees, moving around with slow, confident wing beats – having a rather disagreeable taste most predators stay well clear of them. The male is territorial and will chase any other butterflies, not only of their own kind, that venture into his patch. Adults have a wingspan of about 7cm and can be seen year-round.

In South Africa it is found in the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and beyond our borders as far afield as East Africa.