Butterflies of Africa
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - ACRAEINAE
Tribe - ACRAEINI
Arba Minch, Ethiopia
There are 228 Acraea species, of which
223 are Afrotropical in distribution. The majority are found in the
forests and savannahs of East Africa, while about 60 are found in
West Africa. Beyond Africa a further 5 species occur in the Oriental
region, and another is found in Australia / New Guinea. In the
neotropical region there are 50 additional species, but these are
normally placed in the genera Actinote,
Abananote due to differences in venation and genitalia.
Acraea species have elongate forewings
and rounded hindwings. The wings are thinly scaled and in many
species are semi-transparent. The scales wear off very easily so
that insects more than 4 or 5 days old have a glassy or greasy
appearance. The majority of species have a predominantly brownish or
greyish ground colour, marked with bands or patches of red or
orange. The basal area of the underside hindwings of most species is
marked with a pattern of small black spots.
Acraea encedana is
distributed from Gambia to Ethiopia and Sudan, and south to Angola,
Malawi, and Mozambique.
The Ethiopian form
of encedana is illustrated above. A
different form occurs over much of Africa, in which the apical bar
on the forewings and the ground colour of the hindwings are both
white. The latter form is illustrated below, and is considered to be
a Mullerian mimic of Danaus chrysippus.
species inhabits open grassy areas on lowland floodplains in
southern and western Africa, but is found at altitudes of 1000m or
higher in Ethiopia.
The larval foodplant is Desmodium salicifolium
( Fabaceae ).
Larsen, quoting Jiggins, states that
"all-female broods are common, with females constituting up to 95% of
local populations. Under such circumstances females aggregate in
narrowly limited areas to solicit males, in effect a female lekking
Both sexes nectar at
Tridax and other flowers.
Acraea encedana, Arba Minch, Ethiopia
© Peter Bruce-Jones