Butterflies of Africa
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
© 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 7 known
Oxylides species, all confined to the
Afrotropical region. In common with Iolaus,
Hypolycaena the undersides are white, with an orange
'hairstreak' line running from the costa of the forewing to the
tornus of the hindwing. All 4 genera have long filamentous tails,
and a dark cubital ocellus, creating the impression of a false head,
complete with 'antennae', which are often wiggled when the
butterfly is at rest.
The false head has undoubtedly
evolved as a survival strategy. An insectivorous birds
a butterfly as
it settles, and then
immediately attack. It will invariably
aim its beak
slightly ahead of the butterfly so that it can be captured even if
it starts to fly.
Oxylides lands on a leaf or flower it immediately rotates on
its axis to face the opposite direction, and starts wiggling its
tails to draw attention to the false head.
circumstances the bird is fooled
aiming its attack at the tail, or
slightly behind the
butterfly, which then flies in the opposite direction and escapes
unharmed, or at worst with a peck out of its hindwing.
is a West African species, found from Guinea-Bissau to Cameroon.
This is a forest species, which tends to be found
in small flowery glades and along
Both sexes nectar
at various wild flowers,
their wings erect when feeding. They are reluctant to move when
feeding. If deliberated molested they take to the wing slowly and
flutter a short distance to settle on a nearby bush. Within a few
minutes they invariably return to the exact same flower from which
they were disturbed, and continue feeding. An individual butterfly
will often return to the same patch of flowers on several days in