Butterflies of Africa
Large Fairy Hairstreak
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - HYPOLYCAENINI
© Adrian Hoskins
There are 45 members of the genus
Hypolycaena, of which 22 are found in
the Afrotropical region, 1 in the Holarctic region ( China ), and 18
in the Oriental region. In the Australian region a further 4 species
are found but they differ in certain ways from other
Hypolycaena species, and a new genus
may need to be erected to contain them.
Hypolycaena species are collectively
known as Fairy Hairstreaks.
Hypolycaena antifaunus is a common and
widespread species, found from Sierra Leone to Angola, Uganda and
This species is found in open sunlit areas within
rainforest, and is also frequent in secondary forest and forest edge
habitats. It is found from sea level to at least 800m altitude.
Bobiri forest, Ghana
foodplant is not recorded. Certain other African
Hypolycaena species e.g.
philippus, are polyphagous, while
others have a restricted range of foodplants.
Males can commonly be found imbibing mineralised
moisture from muddy forest roads.
They often bask on low foliage, with the wings
held half open, displaying their brilliant metallic sapphire-blue
Both sexes nectar at various wild flowers,
holding their wings erect when feeding.
The territorial males can frequently be seen in
aerial combat, spiralling around each other, rising and falling as
they drift together, cavorting, along forest tracks - a very
pretty sight indeed.
When at rest on
foliage, the butterflies periodically oscillate their hindwings,
which causes the long filamentous tails to wiggle. This draws the
attention of predators to the rear of the butterfly, which has the
appearance of a "false head". Birds expect butterflies to fly
forward, so they aim their attack just ahead of the insect . The
back-to-front illusion created by the false head fools them into
aiming behind instead, and the butterfly flies in the opposite
direction and makes it's escape.