Anyone who has been to Londolozi lately will certainly have noticed a number of additional splashes of colour to the already vibrant palate of summer in the bushveld. Whether up on an open crest or down beneath the ebony trees at the lodge, one does not need to look very far before you spot one of these culprits of colour. The creatures I’m referring to, are of course, butterflies.
Seeing a colourful butterfly as it gently wafts along on a balmy sunny afternoon epitomises summer. Recently there have been so many different butterflies floating around that it prompted ranger Fin Lawlor to give the rest of the ranging team a spot test on our butterfly identification. My rather mediocre result inspired me to find out a little bit more about these fascinating animals and compile a list of some of the butterflies you’re likely to find during a summertime stay at Londolozi.
1. African Monarch Butterfly – Danaus chrysippus aegyptius
The African Monarch’s bright orange wings with black edges and white spots make it a beautiful species to look at, but the bright colouration advertises something a bit more sinister – these butterflies are toxic! If consumed, the butterfly’s toxins will cause the unfortunate victim to experience nausea and vomiting. The African Monarch acquires these toxins during the larval stage of its life cycle. The larvae will feed on toxic plants like Milkweeds and certain Huernia plants, assimilating the toxic cardenolides into their own bodies.
These butterflies are fairly common at Londolozi so they’re definitely a good species to spot, just make sure not to accidentally eat one!
2. Citrus Swallowtail – Papilio demodocus
These black and yellow butterflies are some of the largest we get here e and can be spotted in the woodland areas dotted around Londolozi. Unlike the African Monarch, the Citrus Swallowtail isn’t poisonous but it does make use of aposematic colouration as a sign of to ward off potential predators. In addition to its colouration, the Citrus Swallowtail also uses another defensive technique – a startle display. The two brown spots with the blue outline on the hind wing resemble eyes and should the butterfly suddenly open its wings a would-be predator may get a fright as it would appear as though a much larger animal was staring at it.
3. Yellow Pansy – Junonia hierta
The Yellow Pansy is often found sitting on the ground sunning itself, like the guests around Varty Camp pool getting a tan in the summer months. Sometimes this species can be so pre-occupied whilst feeding that predators catch it completely unaware, however, the Yellow Pansy is able to move so quickly that it keep ahead of its pursuer. Don’t let the name ‘pansy’ fool you, this species of butterfly is also very territorial and is often seen attacking other butterflies that happen to be passing by.
4. African Migrant – Catopsilia florella
As the name suggests, the African Migrant is a migratory species of butterfly. Every year they undertake a large-scale migration and interestingly they usually tend to migrate in a north-easterly direction. In April 1966 one individual was recorded flying an amazing 650 kilometer journey along the southern coast of South Africa. These butterflies are highly variable when it comes to appearance but if you see hundreds, if not thousands, of butterflies flying north-east in late summer or early autumn, calling them African Migrant butterflies would be a reasonably safe bet.
5. Bushveld Purple Tip – Colotis ione
This species is a real crowd favourite back at camp. We often see them fluttering along the camp pathways and they stop regularly which allows us to admire their electric purple wing-tips. The Bushveld Purple Tip occurs year round although they are most prevalent in summer. One reason why they are so common in camp is that their larvae tends to feed on bush-cherry plants, which are plentiful in the gardens surrounding the camps.
Now that summer is in full swing and the butterflies seem to be everywhere, be sure to look out for them whilst out on game drive or even on the deck in front of your room – you’ll be surprised at how many you spot once you start looking for them!
Stay tuned for the second instalment of The Butterfly Effect…