Meet the Widow

The Alpine Widow butterfly is a denizen of high-altitude grasslands and so may be seen at Verloren Valei.

By Justin Bode

Alpine Widow (uperside view) (Photograph: Andre Coetzer)

Restricted to the high-altitude grassland in the Steenkampsberg and above Machadodorp, Dingana alticola, the Alpine widow or Alpynse-weduwee, is another range restricted butterfly that one may come across at the right time of the year in Verloren Valei.

The adults of these butterflies are on the wing from September to November with their peak flight period being in October. They are mostly on the wing in the morning and are off the wing by 13:00. Males patrol patches of hillside and the females are less active and more often seen feeding on flowers.

While the larval food plant has not been published, it is presumed to be Poacea grasses which other species of the genus feed on.

The genus is endemic to South Africa and Swaziland and contains seven species. Due to their habitat being high altitude (generally 2,000m above sea level) grasslands, the species in the genus generally have a restricted distribution. Of the seven species on the genus, one (Dingana fraterna, Scarce widow) is critically endangered and two (Dingana clara, Clara’s widow and Dingana dingana, Dingaan’s widow) are endangered.

The Alpine Widow is currently listed as least concern, and with part of its distribution falling within Verloren Valei, we hope that it remains this way.

Alpine Widow (underside view) (Photograph: Andre Coetzer)
Alpine Widow (underside view) (Photograph: Andre Coetzer)


S Mecenero, JB Ball, DA Edge, Ml Hamer, GA Henning, M Krüger, EL Pringle, RF Terblanche, and MC Williams (eds), Conservation assessment of butterflies of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland: Red List and atlas. Saftronics (Pty) Ltd: Johannesburg & Animal Demography Unit, Cape Town, 2013.

MC Williams, Afrotropical Butterflies,, 2016.

S Woodhall, Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa. Struik, Cape Town, 2005.

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