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
have only very
feint markings. Others such as ferrymani
are strongly patterned with dark wavy lines. A few including
similis are patterned with black spots on a pale ground
colour; while in others such as
helena there is a
polka-dot pattern of creamy spots on a dark ground colour.
Sierra Leone to western Nigeria.
There are also unconfirmed records from Cameroon and Congo.
This species is
closed canopy or secondary
The larvae feed on algae growing on the bark of trees.
spend long periods at rest sitting
twigs, typically between 0.5-1
metre above ground level, and
usually in the company of other white Liptena
or Larinopoda species.
Both sexes feed at extrafloral nectaries.