Butterflies of Europe
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Libythea celtis, Ravni Dabar, Velebit mountains, Croatia
© Peter Bruce-Jones
The Libytheinae are
one of the most primitive groups of butterflies, and were probably
the first to branch from the Nymphalid evolutionary tree.
contains only 13 species worldwide. All of the Old World Libytheinae
are placed in the genus Libythea.
addition to the Palaearctic species celtis
there is 1 species on Mauritius, 1 in Africa, 2 on Madagascar and 1
on the Marquesas islands in Polynesia.
Libythea are characterised by having
dark uppersides marked with orange streaks and spots, and undersides
cryptically marbled in shades of brown. The angular fw apex is
another feature common to all the species. By far the most
characteristic feature however is the long "beak" formed by the
elongated labial palpi. The palpi are sensory organs used for the
detection of pheromones, and are far more prominent in Libytheines
than in any other group of butterflies.
has an almost contiguous distribution from
Portugal and Morocco to Japan.
This butterfly is found in open areas with scattered
Celtis trees. It is normally found at
elevations between sea level and about 500m but has been recorded as
high as 2300m.
The egg is tall and barrel shaped. It is laid close to a leaf bud on
Celtis australis ( Ulmaceae ).
larva is similar to that of Pierines, being green, cylindrical, and
covered with short fine setae. There is a thin yellow line along the
back of the abdominal segments, and another fine yellow line along
the sides. If disturbed the larva instantly drops from the leaf it
is feeding on, suspended by a long silk thread, and slowly hauls
itself back up when the danger has passed. The pupa is similar to
that of Satyrines - smooth, elongated, and suspended by the
cremaster without the use of a silk girdle.
The butterflies disperse shortly after
emerging, and at such times large aggregations of males often form at
In warm hazy weather conditions they
often bask on foliage several metres above ground level, but never
open their wings when on the ground. They overwinter as adults on
bushes, with their
long palpi appressed to a stem, giving the impression of a dead leaf
attached by its stalk.