Sorry for not posting more often – have been really busy chasing after bugs now that the rains have started and they are popping out all over the place!
Many, many thanks to everyone for their kind comments on the blog post ‘Ants in the dust’. I will try and post a link to the BBC piece on it when I can figure out the technical side of it today or tomorrow.
A couple of days ago in a tiny forest fragment near Nairobi I spotted these little beauties whirling about some buds. From a distance they looked like tiny little orange flames dancing in the dappled light. On taking a closer look I saw that they were tiny orange and brown lycaenid butterflies.
Known as ‘Buffs’, these tiny jewels are part of a large and diverse group of butterflies in the family Lycaenidae. This species is Baliochila fragilis – an apt name for their delicate build. The caterpillars of these butterflies feed on lichens, often high up in the forest trees, so it was interesting to find them hovering about near the ground.
Looking closely at the butterflies perching on the buds of the Chlorophytum, I noticed that there were a lot of ants running up and down the buds too. And then I noticed that the butterflies had their tiny proboscis unfurled and were feeding from in between the young buds. These buds secrete extra-floral nectar which is intended to attract ants that then patrol the buds and protect them from would-be nibblers of the insect-kind. However, as the butterflies posed no threat the flowers, the ants seemed to tolerate them.
In fact, the butterflies were so relaxed that quite a few of the males were courting the females. The pair in the video clip below show the typical interaction. The male sidles up to the female. She rejects him with a flick of her wings and moves on trying to keep feeding. He follows her and flicks his own wings at her trying to win her over… She rejects him and keeps on moving… the cycle is repeated over and over again. I guess eventually some of the most perseverant males win one of the females over!
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/Az_bNs8cewg” width=”425″ height=”350″ wmode=”transparent” /]
More from the wonderful world of bugs soon!