Uniqueness of Vashti

Uniqueness of the ‘Ramsgate Piper’, Eurytela vashti (MS)

  1. Flight pattern: Like E. hiarbas and E. dryope, it has a darting, zigzag flight pattern, intermittent by short gliding motions. However, unlike E. hiarbas and E. dryope, E. vashti (ms) does not venture into any strong sunlit areas. Preferring to stay in the denser parts of the forest, no more than twenty meters from the little rivers edge, E. vashti (ms) is found to settle frequently on small rotten fruits found on the forest floor, where it feeds on, which, unlike E. hiarbas and E. dryope, prefer to play in sunlit areas, settling on flowers from time to time to feed, and uses the forest edge as a hide and seek passage against predators. Hence, this has made E. vashti (ms), an elusive and seldom seen butterfly. This butterfly has a habit of flying approximately 300 to 700 mm off the ground in the undergrowth, but probably flies much higher too.


Host plant: There are three small colonies where we have found this remarkable butterfly. All three colonies have an unusual stinging nettle, (creeper-type with very fine short hairs on the leaf and stem), similar to Laportia pendicularis or Tragia glabratra, but we have not been able to identify it. A female laid a hundred and forty-eight eggs on this plant (this specimen caught by the craft shop staff member). Each egg was laid individually and was a light mother-of-pearl colour, covered in fine cilia. However, I must state that we did find two eggs, which were laid on the netting of the container. Our problem now arises from trying to identify the host plant of the butterfly. Tony Abbott was asked to identify the creeper-type stinging nettle, but was unable to do so. This left us with no identification of the host plant. We have subsequently found quite a number of the food plant which someone else called ‘Obetia tenax‘, but I have no idea. We have established larger colonies using this climbing creeper on fences and in our breeding area, since its discovery.

Conservation of Butterflies in South Africa Research Material. (30th November 2002, by Earle Whiteley). Updated 2017.


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