While being one of the smaller species of butterfly found at Verloren Valei, Tite’s Copper is certainly one of the most striking.
Tites’s Copper is another of South Africa’s high-altitude specialist butterflies that calls Verloren Valei home. The species has been recorded in the grasslands of Kastrol Nek, near Wakkerstroom, Dullstroom in Mpumlanaga and Amajuba Mountain, near Volksrust and Utrecht in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
There are a number of colonies of the butterfly in Verloren Valei, but due to their small size, one has to keep your eyes peeled to be able to see them. They are fond of flowers, and with a little patience become quite habituated to humans photographing them.
There are two forms, a striking red form and a brown form. They are on the wing from November to February. Their flight is low and jinking to escape pursuit.
The male defends territories on bare patches of ground and rocky ledges, settling on the ground, low vegetation or prominent rocks. Female butterflies are usually found near the food plant and are less easily flushed—although, as yet, we do not know what plants Tite’s Copper feeds on.
These butterflies are associated with Lepisiota and Pheidole ants, usually sheltering with them in their nests during the day and emerging to feed on plants at night. They are sometimes fed by ants or, indeed, feed on the ant brood.
Tite’s Copper forms part of the genus Aloeides (Coppers), which is only found in the Afrotropical region. It contains 57 species, 49 of which are recorded in South Africa. (According to Wikipedia, the Afrotropical realm is one of the Earth’s eight biogeographic realms. It covers Sub-Saharan African, the southern and eastern fringes of the Arabian penninsula, southern Iran and extreme southwestern Pakistan, and the islands of the western Indian Ocean, including Madagascar.)
The Lepidopterist Society of Africa has recently embarked on a project to revise the genus according to the latest available taxonomic information and techniques.
The public is encouraged to submit photographic records of butterflies to LepiMap – The Atlas of African Lepidoptera.
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, www.metamorphosis.org.za, 2016.
S Woodhall, Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa. Struik, Cape Town, 2005.