I’m sure we all know what a butterfly looks like but if you really get into studying these beauties, it would take a lifetime. With more than 650 butterflies in Southern Africa to keep us entertained, one wonders where to begin?
Let’s begin with one of the largest and most physically robust butterfly families ‘Charaxinae’. They are worthy of emperor status. One of my favourites is the ‘Pearl Charaxes’ who’s egg looks like a little pearl and the adults have a wonderful white spot on their wings.
One of the main reasons why butterflies are so successful is that the youngsters and the adults do not compete for food. If you look at the larvae of all butterflies they are generally associated with a specific host plant. It is a great way to help a novice observer to identify a possible caterpillar. Your above Pearly is generally associated with your Sersias (Karee) trees and shrubs.
Another wonderful thing about butterflies is their common names from naughty Playboys to strict Policemen to skilful Swordtails. As a guide, I have learnt to always add value to our trees by linking them to a bigger ecological picture. Apricot Playboys to Bushveld Gardenias, Striped Policemen to Red Bushwillows and the Large Striped Swordtail to a Shakamaplum.
Butterflies have always been universal symbols of change and I think as guides we must remember to create more situational awareness for these little creatures. Stop at a big Red Bushwillows and encourage guests to take a moment to look for the little 6cm Policeman or the 10cm long Swordtail amongst the many branches, busy laying their eggs or sipping on nectar from the flowers and rotting fruit.
Watch this video, for some fascinating facts about butterflies. We hope that you learnt something new on this ‘Learn about Butterflies Day’.