Butterflies of Africa
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
© Adrian Hoskins
The Sailors, or Gliders as they are sometimes
called, are all members of the genus Neptis
- a large and confusing group of butterflies found across much of
the world, excluding the Americas. They are noted for characteristic
sailing flight, and their shared theme of white spots and bars on a
Neptis comprises of about 170 species,
at least 65 occur
40+ in the Palaearctic region ( Europe, and Asia north of the
Himalayas ), 6 in Australasia, and about 50 in the Oriental region.
Distinguishing the species involves careful study of the
configuration of the white spots, bars and submarginal lines on both
Neptis nicoteles is distributed from
Sierra Leone to Uganda and western Tanzania.
This species is found in rainforest, including
Neptis species the egg is placed at the
very tip of a leaf of the foodplant, on the upper surface. It is
pale green, globular, and covered in a network of hexagonal ridges
from which arise 100 or more tiny spikes, giving it the appearance
of a tiny sea urchin. The caterpillar spends it's early instars
hiding in a curled up dead leaf from which it will periodically
venture out to feed.
The only recorded
larval foodplant is Milletia ( Fabaceae
Neptis species, this butterfly is best
appreciated when on the wing, as it sails gently, riding on
thermals, with periods of gliding punctuated by occasional sharp
wing beats. The Sailors fly with meticulous precision, gliding in
circles as they weave their way in and out through the foliage and
periodically alight to bask on the foliage of trees and bushes, or
on the ground. Males sometimes imbibe moisture from damp ground.