Thailand, Malaysia &
Allotinus horsfieldi permagnus
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - MILETINAE
Tribe - MILETINI
Darkie is one of several very 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 butterfly is elusive
but fairly common in the lowland rainforests of peninsular Malaysia,
Borneo and Sumatra. Closely related species occur throughout the
Oriental region. Some are widespread, while others are endemic to
particular islands or restricted altitudinally.
In common with other
members of the subfamily Miletinae, this species is entirely
aphytophagous, i.e. it feeds carnivorously, parasitically, or on
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 Homoptera ( aphids,
coccids, psyllids and membracids ). It is probable that all
Miletinae species are involved in complex 3-way symbiotic
relationships with ants and Homoptera.
Tropical dipterocarp rainforests at altitudes below about 300
metres. Other related and very similar species can be found at much
higher altitudes. In my experience this species is usually found
close to rivers, or in seasonally inundated forest.
The butterflies are continuously brooded and can be found in roughly
equal numbers at all times of year.
The eggs are
laid amidst clusters of membracids ( tiny aphid-like creatures ).
The caterpillars are adorned with rows of spiky humps on the back
and sides. Unlike most lepidopteran larvae they do not eat plant
matter, but feed parasitically on membracids during their early
instars. When older they devour complete membracids. Larvae of the
closely related genus Spalgis feed on
coccids, while Logania feed on aphids.
At least one Allotinus species
apries, feeds on coccids when it is
tiny. When it reaches the 2nd instar it develops tiny protrusions
that are used as grapples by the ant
Myrmecaria lutea to carry it to it's nest - where the larva
proceeds to devour the ant grubs.
Details of the pupal stage are unknown, but pupation probably takes
place within ant nests.
Horsfield's Darkie Allotinus horsfieldi
permagnus, Tapah hills, West Malaysia ©
butterflies are sedentary in behaviour, and semi-crepuscular in
nature, becoming active just before dusk, although in dull weather
conditions they may fly earlier in the day. The flight is weak, and
only very short distances are covered.
are normally encountered solitarily, or in very low numbers, and can
be seen at rest on the foliage of bushes in the undergrowth, usually
in the darkest recesses of the rainforest. Males perch on foliage at a
height of about 1m, 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.
August 2004, when exploring Mulu national park in Sarawak, I found a
specimen of Allotinus horsfieldi feeding
in company with ants and membracids. The membracids were piercing
plant stems to fed on the sap, and were being "milked" by the ants, to
obtain a sweet secretion. The butterfly, which was totally ignored by
the ants and their "herd", spent several minutes with it's long
proboscis out-stretched, imbibing the secretion directly from the
backs of the membracids.