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Butterflies of Africa
Lebona Fairy Hairstreak
Hypolycaena lebona  HEWITSON, 1865
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - HYPOLYCAENINI
Hypolycaena lebona, male, Bunso, Ghana Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
The 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.
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 lebona is found from Sierra Leone to n.w. Tanzania.
Habitats
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.
Lifecycle
The lifecycle is unknown.
Adult behaviour
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 outspread.
 

 

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