Butterflies of Africa
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
Tribe - PAPILIONINI
© Adrian Hoskins
There are about 90 recorded species of
Papilionidae in the continent of Africa.
The male of
Papilio dardanus is unique in
appearance, but the female occurs in several forms, most of which
are untailed and mimic the colours and patterns of other butterfly
The models are species that are unpalateable to birds - e.g.
Amauris echeria, Amauris niavius
Danainae ) and Acraea poggei ( Acraeini
). Females of
dardanus from Ethiopia are often tailed
like the male, but have patterns which suggest that they mimic moths
in the family Uraniidae.
Swallowtail, also known as the Flying Handkerchief is found across
most of sub-Saharan Africa, including Madagascar.
This is primarily a rainforest and cloudforest species, but also
commonly occurs away from these habitats, e.g. in Ngorongoro Crater
in Tanzania and in the highlands of Ethiopia. It can also be seen in
botanical gardens and city parks. The butterfly can be found at
altitudes up to at least 1800m.
The larval foodplants include Calodendron,
( Rutaceae ), and
Xymalos ( Monimiaceae ).
Males visit damp ground
to imbibe moisture, but are more often seen in flight in the
sub-canopy or around flowering bushes. Both sexes visit a wide range
of flowers including Lantana, and also
visit decomposing fruit.
At dusk the butterflies go to roost
the foliage of trees. The
highly reflective creamy-white males can often be picked out in
vehicle headlights when driving along forest roads at night. At dawn,
temperatures are low, they
are extremely alert, and it is almost impossible to get within 5
metres of them without them instantly taking flight. This alertness is
presumably a defence against foraging birds, which are most active at
roosting at dawn, Bunso, Ghana
© Adrian Hoskins