Butterflies

Kruger National Park | April 2016

Last month we had a little bit of rain up in the hills and this caused a green flush in the area. This is where we have been seeing most of the game this last month. Although the area was green there is not much grass but rather small herbaceous shrubs. Many of these forbs are in flower now, including the Heliotropes (String of Stars), the small devil’s thorn and the Chascanums. This has attracted a lot of butterflies into the hills. Males of many butterfly species may be found flying up to and staying on a hilltop. Females, looking to
mate, fly up the hill to find partners. Males flutter around the top, competing for the best part of the area – usually the very top. The males in the prime locations (usually the fittest males) then get to mate with the females. This is a form of lekking behaviour and is known as hill-topping.

South Africa has more than 670 known species of butterflies. Many of these species have life-cycles that are specifically linked to certain plant species and only occur in small confined areas. Many of South Africa’s butterfly species are vulnerable. Two to three species have become extinct recently and a further 38 species are listed on the Red Data List, meaning that they are threatened with extinction in the near-future if nothing is done to specifically protect them.

Butterflies play an important role in the ecosystem. Not only do they pollinate many flowers but they also form food for many other creatures and birds. Many butterflies have exquisite colours and patterns and they are a joy to watch as they certainly brighten up the countryside.