Butterflies of the
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - APHNAEINI
© Khew Sin Khoon
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,
and ictis but it is likely that some of
these are only worthy of subspecies status.
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
Spindasis syama is found in north-east
India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Borneo.
This is a forest insect, usually seen in light gaps or along wide
trails at elevations between sea level and about 500m.
The larva feeds on the foliage of Dioscorea,
Xylia and Psidium
and is attended by Crematogaster ants,
which 'milk' it to obtain sugary secretions. It lives, and
eventually pupates, within a shelter made by binding together leaves
sexes are usually encountered singly. They often rest on the foliage
of trees or shrubs. The flight is rapid, erratic and 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.