Butterflies of Africa
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
alta, Wli Falls,
Ghana / Togo border
© Adrian Hoskins
The Sailors, or Gliders as they are sometimes
called, are all members of the genus Neptis
- a large and confusing group of butterflies found across much of
the world, excluding the Americas. They are noted for characteristic
sailing flight, and their shared theme of white spots and bars on a
Neptis comprises of about 170 species,
of which at least 65 occur in Africa, 40+ in the Palaearctic region
( Europe, and Asia north of the Himalayas ), 6 in Australasia, and
about 50 in the Oriental region. Distinguishing the species involves
careful study of the configuration of the white spots, bars and
submarginal lines on both wing surfaces.
Neptis alta is found from Senegal to
Uganda and Tanzania.
This species is found in rainforest habitats at
altitudes between about 100-800m.
Neptis species the egg is placed at the
very tip of a leaf of the foodplant, on the upper surface. It is
pale green, globular, and covered in a network of hexagonal ridges
from which arise 100 or more tiny spikes, giving it the appearance
of a tiny sea urchin. The caterpillar spends it's early instars
hiding in a curled up dead leaf from which it will periodically
venture out to feed.
Neptis species, this butterfly is best
appreciated when on the wing, as it sails gently, riding on
thermals, with periods of gliding punctuated by occasional sharp
wing beats. The Sailors fly with meticulous precision, gliding in
circles as they weave their way in and out through the foliage and
Neptis alta normally flies in the
sub-canopy, but descends occasionally to imbibe mineralised moisture
from damp ground, especially during the dry season.