Butterflies of Africa
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - LIPTENINAE
Tribe - PENTILINI
Hills, Ghana / Togo border
© Adrian Hoskins
The subfamily Lipteninae is wholly African in
distribution. It comprises of 600 species varying from the tiny
creamy yellow Liptena xanthostola to
the dazzlingly bright 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.
The genus Pentila
comprises of 37 known species, most of which are patterned with
black dots and dark borders, although the ground colour varies
according to species from white to bright orange.
Pentila pauli is distributed across
most of tropical sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia and
south to Angola, Congo, Tanzania and Malawi.
This species is found in open sunlit areas of rainforest, e.g. at
the edges of clearings and along logging roads, and in dry forest /
The larvae browse on the trunks
of trees, feeding on algae or possibly on lichen or microscopic
fungi coating the bark. In the case of Pentila
pauli the trees usually host colonies of
Crematogaster ants, but this is not
always the case, so any relationship with the ants is not likely to
sexes commonly visit the extrafloral nectaries of
Marantochloa, sometimes with as many as 3
or 4 Pentila pauli gathering to feed