The mysterious Dancing Amber

It’s only been seen once at Verloren Valei—time to get your spotting shoes on.

Dancing Telchinia (upper side) (Photograph: © Justin Bode)

Telchinia serena is a butterfly in the family Nymphalidae, the so called “brush-footed butterflies”. The name derives from the fact that the adults’ front pair of legs are actually small brush-like sensory organs, giving them the appearance of having only four legs and not six.

It has a number of common names: Dancing Telchinia or  Dancing Amber, and Kleinoranje Rooitjie.

This is a small bright orange butterfliy (male wingspan 35mm to 40mm and female wing spans 36-44mm). The male is quite distinctive compared to other small butterflies in this genus, while the females have a variety of forms and may be mistaken in flight for other Telchinias with similar markings.

The flight is weak and just above ground level. They frequently settle on low vegetation and both sexes are fond of flowers. They are sometimes caught in traps baited with fermented fruit, and males have also been seen feeding avidly on mongoose and otter scats.

Here in southern Africa, the main host plant species of Telchinia serena seems to be Triumfetta species, although they have also been recorded on other plants such as Hermannia species and Hibiscus species.

On the move?

In the last few months there have been numerous sightings of this butterfly in the northern provinces of South Africa and into Kwa-Zulu Natal. This has raised many questions for lepidopterists. Do Telchinia serena undertake migrations in Southern Africa from time to time, or could this rather be described as a sporadic multi-directional dispersal event?

One observation of particular interest is that the females on the move have presented extreme dark and light forms.

As far as Verloren Valei goes, this butterfly has only one recorded sighting from May 2014. It would be interesting to have some more observation in order to try and ascertain if it is rare on the reserve, or just over-looked.

Distribution map of Dancing Telchinia in South Africa


MC Williams, Afrotropical Butterflies,, February 2022

S Woodhall, Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa. Struik, Cape Town, 2020

African Butterfly News 2023 – 3

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