“Nature’s message was always there and for us to see. It was written on the wings of butterflies.” – Kjell B. Sandved

When we talk about animals, we do not refer only to mammals and birds. Much smaller creatures also belong to the animal kingdom, such as insects. Insects are usually poorly regarded because people think about bugs, mosquitos, ants and spiders (that are actually not insects but arachnids).

However, among the class of insects, we can find pretty ones like butterflies. In South Africa it is currently summer and flowers are blossoming. With them come the butterflies, displaying their beautiful colours and feeding on the nectar of the flowers.

Ezemvelo Nature Reserve in Gauteng currently has a wide range of wildflowers blossoming that are attracting these beautiful flying insects, and I was recently able to practice my butterfly identification abilities.

I first spotted the African monarch (Danaus chrysippus) which is one of the most well known butterflies in South Africa. This medium-size butterfly has tawny colour wings with some black and white on the edge. It can be admired flying from flower to flower, and sometimes two individuals can also be seen copulating. The copulation takes place tail-to-tail and may look as if the two butterflies are stuck together, resting on a flower or even flying together.


Another butterfly called the brown-veined white (Belenois aurota) is also reasonably well known in South Africa thanks to its migratory patterns. This butterfly migrates in summer from Cape Town to Madagascar, and we were lucky here at Ezemvelo to have been able to see that migration over the course of two days. Thousands of these butterflies crossed the reserve from west to east like a big white wave over the grass.
brown-veined-white brown-veined-white-on-flower

Other butterfly species have an appearance that confuses predators. Most of the adults of the Lycaenidae family have spots at the base of their hind-wings as well as hairy antenna-like tails to resemble a false head. This confuses predators as they are unable to recognise which way the actual head is, so their approach can be easily detected. This is the case of the Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus).


And also the Mozambique Bar (Cigaritis mozambica) found on Ezemvelo Nature Reserve.

mozambique-barSo next time you are out in nature, stop and appreciate the smaller creatures like butterflies and try and identify them for yourself!