Butterflies of the
Family - PIERIDAE
subfamily - PIERINAE
Ultapani, Assam, India ©
Psyche is also known by the delightful name Wandering Snowflake - a
term which describes this common and pretty species very well. In
Africa, other members of the genus are known by the equally
descriptive names Flip-Flop and Wood White - but while they are
similar in behaviour and appearance to the Wood Whites of Europe,
the latter are of a different genus Leptidea,
and are only very distantly related, being members of the subfamily
In Roman mythology,
Psyche was a beautiful girl who was visited each night in the dark
by Cupid, who told her she must not try to see him. When she did
try, while he was asleep, she accidentally dropped oil from her lamp
on him, and he awoke and fled. After she had performed many harsh
tasks set by Cupid's mother Venus, Jupiter made her immortal, and
she and Cupid were married. Her name Psyche is Greek for both 'soul'
There are 8
Leptosia, species, 7 of which are
restricted to forested areas of Africa and ( in the case of
alcesta and nupta
Leptosia nina is the only member of the
genus found outside of Africa. It is a common butterfly in Nepal,
India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos,
Vietnam, south China, Taiwan, the Philippines, West Malaysia,
Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Timor.
is a butterfly of open but sheltered grassy places, including
clearings in primary and secondary forest, plantations, roadsides,
parks, gardens, quarries, railways and waste land. It is found at
elevations from sea level to at least 1500 metres in the Himalayan
eggs are spindle-shaped, ribbed, pale green in colour, and laid
singly on young terminal leaves of the foodplants.
The caterpillar is
green, glaucous and covered in short setae. It feeds on various
members of the Capparidaceae, primarily
Crateva and Polanisia.
The chrysalis is
shaped like that of Eurema and
Gonepteryx. It has a buff or pale brown
thorax and abdomen, and pinkish wing cases. It is suspended from the
underside of a leaf, attached by the cremaster and secured with a
thin silken girdle.
Although they are
only distantly related, the flight and general behaviour of the
Psyche is strongly reminiscent of that of the European
Leptidea Wood Whites ( subfamily
Dismorphiinae ). The flight is feeble and erratic, but the
butterflies spend long periods without settling. Their bodies bob up
and down as they slowly flutter low over the grasses, rarely
ascending above knee level.
They are active
mainly in early morning and just before sunset, preferring to fly
when light levels and temperatures are quite low. They also tend to
be much more prevalent in humid conditions, and will fly in light
rain on overcast days.
Both sexes commonly
visit Vernonia and
Asystasia flowers for nectar, and can
often be found roosting on the flower heads. Males are sometimes
seen imbibing dissolved minerals from mud or from bird droppings.