Common—but oh so beautiful

The African Yellow Pansy butterfly is one of the most commonly seen lepidoptera at Verloren Valei, but that should not distract us from its intrinsic beauty.

The African Yellow Pansy or Geel Gesiggie (Junonia hierta cebrene) is a common and widely spread butterfly in the family Nymphalidae, the so called “brush-footed butterflies”. The name derives from the fact that in the adults the front legs are small brush-like sensory organs, thus giving the insect the appearance of only having four legs and not six.

With their striking colours they are an often-observed garden species. Their similarity to the pansy flower is very noticeable.

Males have a bright yellow upper side, with striking black markings and purple/ blue spot. The females have a similar colour scheme but different markings, including two blue/ purple spots. A distinguishing feature of the females is a black spot in the yellow of each rear wing—these spots do not appear in the males.

Male African Yellow Pansy (Photograph: Justin Bode)
Female African Yellow Pansy (Photograph: Steve Woodhall)

This butterfly’s flight is short and low, with intermittent bursts of rapid wing beats. The males establish territories close to patches of open ground and patrol these areas. They are fond of damp earth, mud, rotting fruit and animal dung from which they extract nutrients.

The caterpillars of the African Yellow Pansy feed on a variety of Acanthaceae including Justicia species., Dyschoriste depressa, D. setigera, Adhatoda densiflora, Asystasia gangetica, Barleria species., including B. pungens, and Ruellia cordata.

Distribution map of Yellow Pansy, Junonia hierta cedrene


MC Williams, Afrotropical Butterflies,, February 2022

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

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