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Pafuri Butteflies

Pafuri River Camp Butterfly List (Jan 2011) (.pdf - 86kb)
Pafuri River Camp Trees Serving As Larval Food Plants (.pdf - 102kb)

Approximately 70 butterfly species have been recorded in and around the Pafuri area, which includes the Pafuri River Camp. A greater diversity and abundance of butterflies is visible during the wet rainy season from November to April each year, although many butterflies are on the wing throughout the year. With Pafuri being close to the lowveld areas of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, occasional records of more tropical species are recorded from the Pafuri area.

A consolidated butterfly list is attached. This is a provisional list and will undoubtedly be expanded in future years as new distributions are recorded. Visitors are encouraged to submit photographs of butterflies seen to the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA) Project (see so their records can be formally recorded and identified.

A selection of some of the more common butterflies that visitors are likely to see at different times of the year during a visit to the Pafuri River Camp include the following: Azure Hairstreak (Hypolycaena caeculus caeculus), Buquet's Vagrant (Nepheronia buquetii buquetii), Topaz Arab (Colotis amata calais), Club-tailed Charaxes (Charaxes zoolina zoolina), African Veined White (Belenois gidica abyssinica), Smoky Orange Tip (Colotis euippe omphale), Large-striped Swordtail (Graphium antheus), Spotted Joker (Byblia ilithyia), Pearl Charaxes (Charaxes varanes varanes), and the Green-veined Charaxes (Charaxes candiope), which are treated in more detail below.

Azure Hairstreak (Hypolycaena caeculus caeculus)

Recorded in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. A weak flier, it spends hours fluttering around lower branches of trees and is often recorded on the edge of the Mutale River. Flowers seldom attract them, and most are active from midday. Larval food plants include Olax dissitiflora (Small-fruit Olax) in the Sour Plum Family (Olacaceae).

Azure Hairstreak
Buquet's Vagrant (Nepheronia buquetii buquetii)

Also commonly known as the 'Green-eyed Monster' with its distinctive yellowish green eyes, the Buquet's Vagrant is a woodland species that can be easily confused with the African Migrant (Catopsilia florella). It is on the wing throughout the year, but more abundant during the warmer months. Both sexes often feed on the nectar of flowers. Larval food plants include Azima tetracantha (Needle-bush) and Salvadora persica (Mustard-tree). Eggs are laid singly on the uppersides of the leaves of the food plant and take about eight days to hatch.

Buquet's Vagrant, showing its distinctive green eyes
Topaz Arab (Colotis amata calais)

The Topaz Arab or Topaz Tip frequents dry savanna bushveld as far south as Hluhluwe in Zululand. It flies rather weakly, close to the ground, often settling on flowers. It has also been recorded from Botswana and Zimbabwe. Males establish small territories near the larval food plants. The best months to see this butterfly are from March to May. Its larval food plant is Salvadora persica (Mustard-tree) within the family Salvadoraceae. Eggs are laid in batches of 20 to 30.

Topaz Arab
Club-tailed Charaxes (Charaxes zoolina zoolina)

The Club-tailed Charaxes shows a unique feature among the Charaxes of southern Africa in that it displays different seasonal forms. This butterfly has a whitish wet season form (WSF; form zoolina) from October to March and an orange and brown dry season form (DSF; form neanthes), which is similar to the Pearl-spotted Charaxes, between April and September. Both forms may occasionally be seen flying together.

The butterfly is found in rainforests and well-wooded savanna areas and is rather slow-flighted. It seldom alights on leaves of trees but gets right in among the twigs or thorns and settles on branches. The male has one tail to each hind wing, whereas the female has two tails to each hind wing.

Larval food plants include Acacia schweinfurthii (River Climbing Thorn) and the Acacia brevispica (Prickly Thorn).

Club-tailed Charaxes, DSF, female (the two tails on the hind wing are clearly visible).
The WSF (male, shown by the single tail on the hind wing) (Photo: Steve Woodhall).
African Veined White (Belenois gidica abyssinica)

A woodland butterfly found in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and northern Namibia. It is on the wing throughout the year, but more abundant in the warmer months. It is a fast flier and often settles on flowers or on the ground. It also has distinct seasonal forms.

Larval food plants include Capparis tomentosa (Woolly Caper-bush) and Capparis sepiaria var. citrifolia (Wild Cape-bush)(Capparaceae).

African Veined White
Smoky Orange Tip (Colotis euippe omphale)

The Smoky Orange Tip is the oldest known described species of the genus, found virtually throughout Africa. It occurs throughout the year wherever conditions are suitable. The heavily marked wet season form (WSF), form omphale, is found throughout southern Africa. The WSF on the upperside has a broad black cross bar centrally and across the lower part of the hindwing. It tends to prefer to fly in the shade of trees rather than in open spaces. It is a common visitor to flowers and is also known to feed at damp places. Males establish their territories near the larval food plants whilst females fly at random in the undergrowth in search of suitable food plants on which to lay their eggs (oviposit). Larval food plants include, amongst others, Maerua spp. (Bush-cherry) and Cadaba aphylla (Leafless Wormbush).

Smoky Orange Tip
Large-striped Swordtail (Graphium antheus)

The Large-striped Swordtail is an attractive tropical woodland butterfly found in drier woodland and bushveld areas of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo Province, KwaZulu-Natal, northern Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and northern Namibia. The transverse turquoise blue bands in the front of the forewing are wavy (compared with the Small-striped Swordtail, which has straight bands). The hindwings have long, thin, pointed tails.

Both sexes feed on the nectar of flowers, as well as damp sand whilst probing for moisture. This species is on the wing throughout the summer months. Males patrol along the edges of bush as well as rocky hill slopes. Its larval food plants include Hexalabus monopetalus (Shakama-plum), Artabotrys monteiroae (Red Hook-berry) and Annona senegalensis (Wild Custard-apple), all members of the Annonaceae (Custard-apple family). Eggs are laid singly on the tips of young shoots and take about four days to hatch.

Underside of the Large-striped Swordtail perched on the forest floor.
Large-striped Swordtail. Note the wavy blue lines on the front of the forewings.
Spotted Joker (Byblia ilithyia)

The Spotted Joker has been recorded from Port Elizabeth northwards into KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo Province and throughout Zimbabwe, northern Botswana and northern Namibia. It is on the wing throughout the year, and is sometimes known to inhabit the same area of veld for several days. It normally flies fast and low, and is a regular visitor to sucking-places in trees where Charaxes usually gather. Its larval food plants include Dalechampia capensis (Wild Hop) in the Euphorbiaceae family.

Spotted Joker. The small black spots in the middle of the hind wings distinguish this species from the Common Joker (which lacks these spots).
Pearl Charaxes (Charaxes varanes varanes)

The Pearl Charaxes is found in thick bush and forest, perched on ends of branches from where it chases off intruders. It flies throughout the year, but is more numerous in the warmer summer months of the year. The dead-leaf appearance of the underside affords excellent camouflage. Its flight is slower than other Charaxes. Its larval food plants include Allophyllus africanus (African False Currant).

Pearl Charaxes, upperside.
Camouflaged underside of the Pearl Charaxes.
Green-veined Charaxes (Charaxes candiope)

Please send photos of any Pafuri butterflies seen but not included on the Pafuri Butterfly List to Christopher Willis at so the record can be confirmed and the list updated with new information.

For more information, comments or suggestions, please contact Christopher Willis at the e-mail address
The Green-veined Charaxes is a common species throughout Africa. The forewing green veins on the underside of the wings are very conspicuous. It is a powerful, fast-flighted species and males are often found perched high on trees aggressively chasing other insects and repeatedly returning to the same perch. Both sexes are attracted to sap exuding from trees. It has been recorded throughout the year, although the best times to see it are from February to April. It is readily attracted to flowers and fond of drinking on the mud at the edge of streams or pools. This species is also attracted to fresh animal droppings. Like the Pearl Charaxes, this species prefers resting on stems among twigs where its underside markings blend well with its surroundings, though perhaps not as effectively as the Pearl Charaxes.

Larval food plants include Croton sylvaticus (Forest Croton), and Croton gratissimus (Lavender Croton) in the Euphorbiaceae family.

Visitors to Pafuri River Camp are encouraged to visit the web site of the Lepidopterists' Society of Africa (LepSoc) ( to find out more about South Africa's butterflies and activities of the Society.

Photos of butterflies can also be submitted to the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment's (SABCA) Virtual Museum at the address SABCA is a joint project of the Animal Demography Unit (Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and The Lepidopterists' Society of Africa (LepSoc).

Attractive Green-veined Charaxes
Underside of the Green-veined Charaxes showing its distinctive green proboscis and green wing veins
* All photographs by Christopher Willis, unless otherwise noted.