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Butterflies of the Indian subcontinent
Long-banded Silverline
Spindasis lohita  HORSFIELD, 1829

Family - LYCAENIDAE

subfamily - THECLINAE

Tribe - APHNAEINI

Spindasis lohita, Chilapata, West Bengal, India  Adrian Hoskins

Introduction
The genus Spindasis is regarded by some authors as a subgenus of Cigaritis. Thus defined there are well over 70 species, found variously across Africa, the Middle East and the Oriental region. The 'true' Spindasis species, i.e. those occuring in the Oriental region, amount to about 25-30 species. The classification of some taxa is disputed so the exact number of species in India is uncertain. D'Abrera lists 14 species as occuring on the Indian subcontinent - syama, lohita, vulcanus, elwesi, schistacea, trifurcata, evansii, lilacinus, nipalicus, rukma, rukmini, abnormis, nubilus and ictis but it is likely that some of these are only worthy of subspecies status.
The genus is instantly recognisable from the distinctive pattern of red-bordered silvery stripes on the underside. The pattern functions to divert the eyes of predators away from the butterfly's head, and towards the tornus. The bright orange tornal spot, and the white-tipped 'false antennae' tails, which are wiggled while the butterfly rests, add further to the back-to-front illusion. A bird or reptile intending to attack a butterfly will always try to anticipate the direction in which it will try to escape. Accordingly they aim their attack just ahead of what they believe to be the head of the insect, but the back-to front illusion fools them into aiming at the tail, and the butterfly is able to escape in the opposite direction.

Spindasis lohita is a common and widely distributed species. It is found in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo.

Habitats
This butterfly is found in rainforest, humid deciduous forest and forest edge habitats at elevations between sea leval and about 700m.
Lifecycle
The caterpillar is green, mottled with paler markings. It feeds on the foliage of the shrubs Psidium
( Myrtaceae ), Dioscorea ( Dioscoreaceae ), Argyreia ( Convolvulaceae ), Xylia ( Mimosaceae ) and Terminalia ( Combretaceae ). It is attended by ants, which 'milk' it to obtain sugary secretions. It lives, and eventually pupates, within a shelter constructed from fragments of bark or stem.
Adult behaviour

Both sexes are usually encountered singly or occasionally in two's and three's, and are typically seen when resting on the foliage of trees or shrubs at a height of about 2-3m above the ground. They have a rapid fluttery flight which is difficult to follow with the eye.

Males sometimes visit sandbanks, where they perch on rocks or stones. Upon landing they wiggle the 'false antennae' tails for a few moments, but once they have assessed that they are in no immediate danger from predators, they stop this activity and remain perfectly still.

 

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