Butterflies of the
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - MILETINAE
Tribe - MILETINI
Spalgis epius, Manas, Assam, India
The Apefly is
one of several similar species in the tribe Miletini, which are
characterised by having attractively mottled and striated patterns
on their underside wings, a long thin abdomen, a very long
proboscis, and erect labial palpi.
The name Apefly
refers to the dorsal view of the pupa, which bears an astonishing
resemblance to the face of a rhesus monkey. The Thai vernacular name
Phi Suea Dak Dae Hua Ling literally means 'the butterfly whose pupa
resembles a monkey head'.
Thre are 7
Spalgis species, of which 3 are wholly
African in distribution, one is endemic to Papua New Guinea, one is
endemic to the Philippines, and two: baiongus
and epius, are found in India.
In common with other
members of the subfamily Miletinae, this species is
hemipterophagous, i.e. the caterpillar and adult butterfly both feed
exclusively on Hemiptera, or Hemipteran by-products.
A great deal remains to
be learnt about the ecology of the Miletinae. It is known that the
adults and larvae of most species live in association with ants and
that most feed parasitically or carnivorously on aphids, coccids,
psyllids or membracids. It is probable that all Miletinae species
are involved in complex 3-way symbiotic relationships with ants and
This species inhabits rainforest and humid deciduous forest at
elevations between about 100-500m.
The eggs are
laid amidst colonies of mealybugs Planococcus
( Pseudococcidae ). Several are laid, one at a time, in each colony.
The resulting larvae do not at any stage of their growth eat plant
matter, instead they feed parasitically or as predators, on the
bugs. The bodies of the larvae are coated with white waxy filaments
which adhere to their setae, making it very difficult to distinguish
them from the mealybugs themselves. When tiny the larvae feed on the
eggs of the bugs, but when larger they feed on the nymphs and adult
butterflies are sedentary in behaviour. The flight is weak, and they
only cover short distances when flying. They are normally encountered
solitarily, or in very low numbers, and can be seen at rest on the
foliage of bushes in the undergrowth. Males perch on foliage at a
height of about 1-2m, and use these vantage points to await passing
females. Often 2 or 3 males will be found in close proximity - when
males meet they chase each other rapidly back and forth until one or
the other submits to bullying and flies away.