Butterflies of Africa
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - LIPTENINAE
Tribe - LIPTENINI
© Adrian Hoskins
The Lipteninae are wholly African in
distribution, and comprise of about 600 species, varying from the
tiny creamy yellow Liptena pearmani
to the dazzling metallic blue Epitola
posthumus - a species which with a wingspan of 65mm, is
massive by Lycaenidae standards.
The Lipteninae are
fascinating because of their association with "ant trees", i.e.
trees which support colonies of Crematogaster
ants. As with most other Lycaenidae species, the caterpillars of
Liptenids have ants in almost constant attendance. The ants "milk" a
sugary substance from a gland on the caterpillar's back, and in
return for this reward the caterpillar benefits because the presence
of the aggressive ants deters other insects such as wasps and flies
that would otherwise attack them.
Liptena comprises of 65 species, all of similar size ( circa
35mm wingspan ), but varying in colour from pure white to yellow,
orange or black. Some species such as
xanthostola have only very feint markings. Others such as
ferrymani are strongly patterned with
dark wavy lines. A few including eukrinaria
and similis are patterned with black
spots on a pale ground colour; while in others such as
and modesta there is a polka-dot
pattern of creamy spots on a dark ground colour.
Liptena albicans is a west African
species, found from Sierra Leone to Ghana.
This species is found in good quality rainforest, at altitudes
The larvae feed on algae growing on the bark of trees.
spend long periods at rest sitting
on tendrils or thin twigs, typically between 2-4 metres above ground
Both sexes feed at extrafloral nectaries.