Investigation and Research of Eurytela vashti

The earliest records of this butterfly are taken from a small pocket book called “What Butterfly is that?” by C.G.C. Dickson and published by Purnell Pocketbook in 1972, on pages 33, subheading 25 Eurytela hiarbas angustata. This section reads as follows;


Food-plants:  Climbing plants, Tragia and Dalechampia, also Castor Oil plant (Euphorbiaceae)

Appearance:  Throughout the year in warm areas

Distribution:  Chiefly the easterly portion of Southern Africa, (westwards to the Knysna district, in the Cape); and far to the north.

Remarks: the white egg with the numerous fine spines, are laid singly and hatch after one and a half weeks. The larva may be green, brown or greenish-gray, striped longitudinally with pink and white, or white alone, and marked otherwise with white and dark green.  It bears spined protuberances – in addition to two very long spine-like processes on the head; five instars are completed within a month.  The pupa, green, pinkish or gray is curiously shaped, with outwardly extended wing cases, this stage covering approximately two weeks.  Eurytela hiarbas angustata has a somewhat erratic, chiefly sailing flight in some chosen spot, next to trees. The second illustration (25b) represents the rare yellowish-banded form flavescence – this specimen having been taken at Umkumaas, Natal, in 1958.

In 1900 a specimen was captured by A. Ross and can be viewed in the “Pennington’s Butterflies of Southern Africa” book on page 539, plate 100. This male however is orange, not as described by C.G.C.Dickson.


This is the specimen collected by C.G.C. Dickson in 1958. (Female)


The butterfly specimen was incorrectly described as f. flavescence, probably due to the lack of material available. However, from 1973 to 1990 another three specimens were collected in Durban on the Bluff by Mr. D.E.Whiteley. These specimens were left in the care of the Durban Museum and should still be there today. On verification it is established that all three specimens were females, identical to the female above.

Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence (male)

Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence (male)

Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence (female)

Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence (female)







The color of the specimen above, found in 1958, is exactly the same as the female specimens below of Eurytela Vashti (ms), which has a more pinkish-beige color than those of the Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence orange color. Unfortunately, what has made things difficult is that there were only males of Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence available (orange) and Eurytela Vashti (ms), (pinkish-beige color) and therefore all known specimens were just labeled Eurytela hiarbas angulata f. flavescence. The female Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence above was captured by Ivor Migdoll and is seen in the book called “Ivor Migdoll’s Field Guide to the Butterflies of Southern Africa” on page 59 picture 59c, which is a female and not a male as described. This now changed things a bit, because there was a female now in existence of the same orange color.

Appearance: (Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence) Throughout the year in warm areas

Distribution: (Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence)  (Females)    La-lucia (Dbn) by Ivor Migdoll,

(Males)       Mboyti Forrest (Eastern Cape) by Earle Whiteley, Bluff (Dbn) by Deryck E Whiteley, Oribi Gorge (South Coast) by Earle Whiteley, Margate (South Coast) by Earle Whiteley, Trafalgar (South Coast) by Earle Whiteley, Durban (KZN)  by A.Ross in 1900.

Eurytela vashti (ms) male (The Ramsgate Piper)

Eurytela vashti (ms) male (The Ramsgate Piper)

Eurytela vashti (ms) female) (The Ramsgate Piper)

Eurytela vashti (ms) female) (The Ramsgate Piper)







Discovery of the first males that led us to investigate the Eurytela Genus

The first specimen seen and captured was in the “Ibilanghlolo Valley” along the “Little Billy” river on the 14th April 2002. This was a male (Eurytela vashti ms). I had never seen anything quite like this specimen, with its rustic brown bar found only on the hindwing. I mistakenly identified this butterfly as Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence. In my excitement, I realized that if I caught one specimen so fresh, I might just be lucky to find another. I continued my search along the valley and spotted, which could have been just one specimen several times, darting in and out of the branchlets of the undergrowth near the existing Lepidome, which we had first built. The butterfly seemed just to disappear in front of me, as it closed its wings, to appear much further along, making me chase it again. During the course of the day, I stayed under the undergrowth on my hands and knees, pulling myself along, following where I thought I had seen the butterfly. Eventually, I found a female sitting on a fungi-fied, some kind of smelly-fruity thing, quite unaware of my presence. I managed to finger pick the specimen, but in so doing damaged its wings with my fingerprint in the apical areas of the forewings. What drew my attention to the specimen was the opening and closing motion of the wings close to me that I had not noticed before.  I could not use my net to collect it. There was just no space to make use of my net. I had spotted a few specimens and had captured only three, two of which were males. I went back repeatedly during the next few days, but was unable to catch any, although I think I did see some more.

While sitting near the river, without a net present, I observed a very worn female flitting around a creeper-like plant with a black powdery substance on the leaves and upon creeping closer, I saw her sit and bend her abdomen onto a dry leaf and lay an egg. I hastened back to my camp to find a net in the hope that she would still be there when I returned. I returned and she was still there. I captured her.

On the 24th April 2002 I had to go to Trafalgar to collect some Vepris reflex host plant leaves for Papilio dardanus cenea, that I was also breeding and was asked by Richard Dobson to take him along with his daughter Colette so that she could learn how to collect butterflies for her shoe box collection. I agreed and took them with to a small foot path at the end of a dirt road with an old boom. This path led to the beach. Entering this pathway, I could not believe my eyes when I saw a male (Eurytela vashti ms) come out of the undergrowth right in front of me. In my excitement, I managed to chase this male for about 20 meters before capturing it. Richard Dobson was just as exited when he learned that I caught a (Eurytela vashti ms)  male and asked me to give it to his daughter. I told him that I could not because it was the first one I had seen in this area. He was visibly disappointed. We searched for several hours to see if we could find more. We did not however. Richard Dobson claimed on several occasions that he had seen ‘another one’.

Flight pattern

Like Eurytela hiarbas and Eurytela dryope, it has a darting, zig zag flight pattern, intermittent by short gliding motions. However, unlike Eurytela hiarbas and Eurytela dryope, Eurytela 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, Eurytela vashti (ms) is found to settle frequently on small rotten fruits found on the forest floor, where it feeds on, which, unlike Eurytela hiarbas and Eurytela 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 Eurytela 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. Being closer to the ground myself, has allowed me to observe them more frequently than at any other time.  I have noticed that all my specimens were captured between 11am to 3pm. (April)

Host plant

There are three main areas where we have found this remarkable butterfly.  All three areas have up to five different stinging nettle plants. During our observations, a worn female was found laying on one of these unusual looking stinging nettles (creeper-type with very fine short hairs on the leaf and stem). At the time however, the female was captured and a number of host plants were randomly picked and placed in a large container measuring 300mm X 600mm X 300mm. We had placed five different stinging nettles into this container (Urtica subspecies, Laportia pendicularis, Urera hypsilodendron, Tragia glabratra and Dalechampia capensis). Only one of these plants was laid on with a hundred and forty-eight eggs. Each egg was laid separately from each other and was a light mother-of-pearl color, covered in fine cilia. However, I must state that we did find two eggs, which were laid on the netting of the container, but no eggs on the other four plants. 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.

First brood – April

The hundred and forty-eight eggs were well looked after and darkened within two weeks of being laid. Great care was taken looking after all the hatchlings, which were a light brown color and darkened with each consecutive instar. Our first specimen to hatch was a male, which had a rather dark brick-brown bar running through both hindwings. No evidence of this bar continued into the forewing, as in the white and orange markings/bars of Eurytela hiarbas and Eurytela dryope. The females have a much lighter beige-brown marking/bar that continues into the forewings from the hindwings uppersides, but remarkably this is not found in any of the males. We were ecstatic to have bred out ninety-six specimens of which I kept a number of males and females for my private collection. The remainder were released back into the wild at the exact spot where we had captured the original female. We kept of this batch, six males and six females, which we released into our breeding area, with the hope that they would breed successfully. On the third day after their release into the lepidome, we found a male and female in cop. All other specimens had vanished. On the fourth day after releasing these butterflies into the lepidome, this male and female also disappeared. We put this down to having many lizards and gecko’s in the lepidome.  There was no transition in any of the specimens suggesting that it could be a form of Eurytela hiarbas angustata.

Second brood – July

On the third of July, I captured another female in a pathway near the dome, on a very cloudy day near the original place I had captured my first specimens. I again put her with the known host plant that she breeds on and was given seventeen eggs. I bred these through and got twelve beautiful fresh specimens, five females and seven males. I kept for my collection four males and four females and released the last four into the valley where I had originally captured the female. There was no transition in any of the specimens suggesting that it could be a form of Eurytela hiarbas angustata. 

female Eurytela vashti

Here is a male and female Eurytela vashti (ms) in copulation from our last breeding 22/05/04

Note: A male specimen was given to my friend Richard Dobson after he had asked me on several occasions for specimens for the collection of his daughter Colette. A few months later Richard Dobson caught a specimen female at the Butterfly Sanctuary. This made me very angry and I reprimanded him as it was my discovery made on the property that I was renting from David Swart and he had not asked or obtained permission from me to do so.


It was while I was studying the Eurytela specimens, namely Eurytela hiarbas angustata, Eurytela hiarbas angustata f. flavescence, Eurytela dryope angulata and Eurytela vashti (ms), that I discovered that all these Eurytela’s have a winter and a summer variation (form). On checking all my specimens I found that all the July brood were rather dark on the undersides in comparison to the patterns of markings found on the April brood on the undersides. although the uppersides seemed to be all the same. This occurs in all the Eurytela that I have studied.





The name ‘vashti’

The name ‘vashti’ was taken from the Bible, the book of Esther Chapter 1: 9 through to Chapter 2: 4. Here the Queen Vashti refused a command from her king on two separate occasions to appear in her queen’s headdress and her natural beauty before the people, so that they could admire her and praise their king. This refusal led the king to choosing another wife, named Esther, and banishing queen Vashti into exile. Our butterfly, Eurytela vashti (ms) is a very beautiful butterfly that, just like Queen Vashti, refuses to act according to the norm of the Eurytela family and is elusive, hiding herself in the undergrowth of the Ibilanghlolo Valley.


This butterfly is quite rare and we have only seen two specimens, both being males, during the year 2005 thus far. It is with a difficult realization that this butterfly could easily become extinct due to fires, development or vandalism. It has been necessary that we breed this butterfly, using specimens from the three colonies we have found, so as to keep the gene pool strong and release these specimens after breeding, back into the area from which they were captured. Of the specimens bred, ninety percent are released immediately back into the environment, and the remainder kept for scientific purposes.


The ovum of Eurytela vashti (ms) is exactly the same as Eurytela hiarbas angustata and Eurytela dryope angulata, from what I can see. The egg has the same rounded shape, approximately the same size, the same cilia and color of all the Eurytela’s, I have seen so far. It is rather impossible to tell any great significant differences using a loop (single lens magnifier) of which I have at my disposal.


The larva is a dark brown color and resembles those of Eurytela dryope angulata. But all the appendages of Eurytela hiarbas angustata, Eurytela dryope angulata larva are the same, with Eurytela hiarbas angustata having green and brown colored larva of more or less the same ratio in color. Although in Eurytela dryope angulata there seems to be a smaller ratio of green larva. Eurytela vashti (ms), so far has only produced larva that are dark brown in color.





So far all the Eurytela hiarbas angustata and Eurytela dryope angulata, have been found to prefer plant A, which has rather solid and sharp spines that would give you a healthy burn once it penetrated the skin. While Eurytela vashti (ms) is found so far only on plant B, which has a stem coated with soft hair, almost velvety.  The larva of Eurytela hiarbas angustata and Eurytela dryope angulata like to keep hidden on the stems of this prickly plant (A) to protect themselves from predators.  While on the other hand the larva of Eurytela vashti (ms) like to lie in the center of the leaf on the main vein of a leaf that has some kind of a black fungus growth (soot-like) covering it. Here their dark brown color hides them perfectly from the sight of predators.



The pupae are a dark brown color and resemble those of Eurytela dryope angulata. But all the appendages of the pupae are the same, with Eurytela hiarbas angustata, having green and brown colored pupae of more or less the same ratio in color. Although Eurytela dryope angulata thus far have only given me brown pupae. Eurytela vashti (ms) so far has only produced pupae that are dark brown and no green colored pupae, thus far.

Appearance:  Throughout the year in warm areas

Distribution: (Females), Bluff (Dbn) by Deryck Earle Whiteley, Umkumaas (South Coast) by C.G.C.

Dickson, Ramsgate (South Coast) by Earle Whiteley, Pumula (South Coast)

by Barry Kraus,  Butterfly Sanctuary, Ramsgate, (South Coast) by Richard


(Males),    Trafalgar (South Coast) by Earle Whiteley, Ramsgate (South Coast) by

Earle Whiteley.

Note: As to a recent claim by, that Eurytela vashti was discovered in the Impenjati Nature Reserve is true, however the accusation that this was the first specimen is false. However, I see no reason as to why Eurytela vashti will not occur there. I have traced a flight path through the Ibilanghlolo River, in the coastal brush heading towards Impenjati Nature Reserve. I however did take a male specimen on the outskirts of Impenjati Nature Reserve in Trafalgar in thick lantana undergrowth on the 24th April 2002 in the presence of Richard Dobson. I have not captured any specimens in Impenjati Nature Reserve.

In-depth study of the Eurytela genus

In-depth study of the Eurytela genus

new evolving species

From the charts seen above, many of these scenarios were considered, but this left too many uncertainties and speculation.

With intensive study into the Eurytela Genus it was discovered early on that the assumptions of Earle Whiteley are correct and that there may be two entities instead of one. Eurytela vashti entity and Eurytela flavescence entity. However there are too few specimens of Eurytela flavescence entity to make a study from.







The final chart below, showing that this definitely is a new species and is a first to show that the Eurytela genus has its own evolving species.

Eurytela genus