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Butterflies of Africa
Common Fairy Hairstreak
Hypolycaena hatita  
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - HYPOLYCAENINI
Hypolycaena hatita, Kakum, Ghana Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
There are 45 members of the genus Hypolycaena, of which 22 are found in the Afrotropical region, 1 in the Holarctic region ( China ), and 18 in the Oriental region. In the Australian region a further 4 species are found, but they differ in certain ways from other Hypolycaena species, so a new genus may need to be erected to contain them.
The African Hypolycaena species are popularly known as Fairy Hairstreaks. The various species can be distinguished from one another by examining the curvature and alignment of the orange median stripe on the underside, the configuration of the white markings on the upperside hindwings, and the hue of the metallic scales in the basal area of the upperside.
Hypolycaena hatita is found from Senegal to Ethiopia, and south to western Tanzania and Malawi.
Habitats
This is a rainforest species, which occurs at altitudes between about 100-500m.

Hypolycaena hatita male, Bunso, Ghana Adrian Hoskins

Lifecycle
The larval foodplant is Syzygium ( Myrtaceae ).
Adult behaviour
Territorial males can often be seen in aerial combat, spiralling around each other, rising and falling as they drift together, cavorting along forest tracks -  a very pretty sight indeed.
When a male encounters a female the courtship is very brief, with copulation taking place almost immediately. The male settles alongside her and curves his abdomen around to make contact, after which the pair remain alongside each other for a few minutes. Sooner or later a gust of wind or some other disturbance causes them to change position, and the male then turns to face away from his mate. Amazingly, despite their tangled tails, the butterflies are fully capable of flying short distances while copulated - the pair illustrated on this page flew several times, and eventually settled high in a tree.
Hypolycaena hatita, Kakum, Ghana Adrian Hoskins
 

 

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