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Butterflies of Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo
Purple Sapphire
Heliophorus epicles  GODART, 1824
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - LYCAENINAE
Tribe - LYCAENINI

Heliophorus epicles tweediei, Ringlet, West Malaysia  Adrian Hoskins

Introduction
The name Purple Sapphire may seem inappropriate this pretty butterfly, but it refers to the colour of the upper surface of the wings as illustrate below, not the bright yellow and red underside !
Although this stunning little butterfly has a rather hairstreak-like appearance, it is in fact a member of the tribe Lycaenini - commonly known as Coppers.
There are 10 species in the genus Heliophorus, of which androcles, which occurs from Sikkim to western China, is the most dramatic. It has an underside similar to epicles, but on the upperside of the male, the basal area of the forewings is brilliant metallic blue in the wet season form, and a shimmering metallic green in the dry season form.
Heliophorus epicles occurs in India, Burma, Thailand, West Malaysia, Bhutan, Java, Sumatra, China and Taiwan, but is curiously absent from Borneo.
Both sexes are similar in appearance, except that the orange markings on the forewing are larger in the female.

Heliophorus epicles tweediei, female, Ringlet, West Malaysia  Adrian Hoskins
Habitats
This species frequents disturbed forest edge habitats at elevations between about 500-1500m above sea level. Typical habitats include roadside verges, wide grassy forest tracks and old quarries which are in the process of reverting to grassland and scrub.
Lifecycle
Unknown. It is likely however that the eggs are laid singly on the upperside of leaves, close to the stem, as in the case of other Lycaenini. The larvae are likely to be plump, woodlouse-shaped, and rest on the underside of leaves. The foodplants are unknown, but are likely to be herbaceous plants in the families Polygonaceae or Plumbaginaceae.
Adult behaviour

Both sexes can be found, with luck, around bushes and tall herbage in full sunlight at the forest edge, where they dash from flower to flower. They are hairstreak-like in behaviour - the males spending long periods perched on bushes, usually with the wings held slightly apart. If two males meet, they engage in a very lively aerial sortie, twisting and turning in tight circles until one of the pair is shaken off, at which time the other returns to his perch. The loser of the battle very rarely learns from his lesson however, and often strays back into the other's territory, getting chased away several times in succession.

Males also settle on dry soil, sometimes in groups of up to half a dozen, where they imbibe what little moisture is present, to extract dissolved minerals. Strangely they do not seem to visit damp earth or soil, so it may be that they seek specific minerals present only in particular well drained soils.

In warm but overcast conditions both sexes bask on herbage with wings almost fully outspread.

 

 

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