Butterflies of Africa
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - HYPOLYCAENINI
male, Bunso, Ghana
© Adrian Hoskins
subfamily Theclinae comprises of almost 3000 species worldwide, 520
of which occur in the Afrotropical region. On the upperside the
males of most species have metallic blue scales, while the females
tend usually to be earthy brown in colour. The forewings generally
have a pointed apex, and the hindwings have a tornal lobe, which in
many genera is extended to form a thin tail. On the underside
there is usually a
black cubital spot at the base of the lobe,
often crowned with orange.
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.
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 lebona is found from Sierra
Leone to n.w. Tanzania.
This is a rainforest species, which tends to be
found along the narrower paths rather than in open sunlight. It
occurs at altitudes between about 100-600m.
The lifecycle is
Both sexes nectar
at various wild flowers, usually holding their wings erect when
feeding. They periodically oscillate their hindwings, which causes
the little tails to wiggle, and this, together with the "false eye"
marking at the edge of the wings diverts the attention of predators
away from the butterfly's head and body. Birds generally try to
predict which direction a butterfly will take, so they aim their
attack at a point just ahead of the butterfly.
Hypolycaena hatita and other Theclinae turn this to their
advantage, fooling the bird into aiming behind the butterfly, which
then flies forward and often escapes unharmed.
When not feeding,
both sexes sit on low herbage, and bask with their wings fully