Tag Archives: South African Butterflies

Soldier Pansy Butterfly

Junonia terea

A butterfly of coastal and riverine forests, the Soldier Pansy is restricted to suitable parts of Kwazulu-Natal and the Lowveld and escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo (as far as its local distribution is concerned). Adults have a wingspan of up to 6cm and can be seen throughout the year, though their numbers peak in spring and autumn. They fly slowly through shady clearings and along pathways and settle often, usually on a leaf just above ground level.


Dusky Copper Butterfly

Aloeides taikosama

The Dusky Copper is a small butterfly with a wingspan of only about 3cm which occurs from Kwazulu-Natal to North West through Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo where they inhabit grasslands and thorny savanna. They usually occur in small colonies and even when disturbed will not fly far from their colony. Adults are seen from September to May.

African Small White Butterfly

Dixeia charina

One of the smaller species of the family, with a wingspan ranging only up to 4cm, the African Small White has a limited distribution stretching from the Garden Route to the southern Lowveld where they inhabit coastal, montane and riverine forests and dense woodlands. Larvae feed on the leaves of caperbushes. Adults fly year-round, reaching peak numbers towards the end of summer.

Brown Pansy Butterfly

Junonia natalica

The Brown Pansy, or Brown Commodore, is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of around 5cm. It lives in coastal and riverine forests and dense savannas, where it flies low and slow through open areas. They settle often, being attracted to flowers and puddles, slowly opening and closing their wings, but are also restless and easily flushed. Adults fly year round, with numbers peaking in spring and summer. in South Africa, Brown Pansies occur through much of Kwazulu-Natal and into the Lowveld and escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Zebra White Butterfly

Pinacopteryx eriphia

The Zebra White is another butterfly that is distributed over much of South Africa, and is found in pockets of all our provinces. It doesn’t appear to be numerous anywhere though. It inhabits arid scrub and thickets, warmer grasslands and savanna habitats. Adults have a wingspan of between 4 and 5cm and can be seen throughout the year. They usually fly slow and very close to the ground but can accelerate very quickly to escape danger when required.

Painted Lady Butterfly

Vanessa cardui

The Painted Lady is the most widespread butterfly in the world, being found on every continent except South America and Antarctica. There isn’t a corner of South Africa where they do not occur and they inhabit every habitat, from desert to forests, including parks and gardens.

Adults have a wingspan of between 4 and 5cm, with females being slightly larger than males. The males are territorial and defend small areas of bare ground as their patch. They can fly rapidly but often only glide close to the ground, flapping their wings only occasionally, and settling often with wings spread out. These butterflies have a habit of swarming and migrating in various parts of their cosmopolitan range, also here in South Africa. Painted Ladies can be seen year round, being most numerous in spring and autumn. The larvae are raised on a wide variety of food plants.

Natal Acraea Butterfly

Acraea natalica

The striking Natal Acraea is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of between 5 and 7cm. In South Africa it occurs commonly through all our northern and eastern provinces, where it is found in forest and savanna habitats. Like most others in the genus the Natal Acraea flies slowly and settles often on flowers, its seemingly lackadaisical attitude being a clue to the fact that it is foul tasting and avoided by predators.

Banded Gold Tip Butterfly

Teracolus (Colotis) eris

The Banded Gold Tip is a common and widespread butterfly that can be found in corners of all South Africa’s provinces. While reaching their highest densities in forest and savanna, they have a wide habitat tolerance, avoiding only succulent karoo, fynbos and mountain grasslands. They’re very fond of settling on flowers, fluttering rapidly around them before landing, are fast fliers and usually don’t fly higher than 2m off the ground. Adults have a wingspan of between 4 and 5cm and are on the wing year-round, their numbers peaking in autumn. The larvae feed on the leaves of shepherd’s bushes.

This post was scheduled to publish while we are exploring two of South Africa’s national parks during the South African winter holidays. We will respond to comments on our return. Stay safe and well!

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.