Abantis paradisea ( Butler 1870 )

Cock, Matthew J. W. & Congdon, T. Colin E., 2011, Observations on the biology of Afro-tropical Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera) principally from Kenya. Part 2. Pyrginae: Tagiadini 2893, Zootaxa 2893 (1), pp. 1-66 : 52-57

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https://doi.org/ 10.11646/zootaxa.2893.1.1

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scientific name

Abantis paradisea ( Butler 1870 )


Abantis paradisea ( Butler 1870) ( Figures 46–50 View FIGURE 46 View FIGURE 47 View FIGURE 48 View FIGURE 49 View FIGURE 50 )

Abantis paradisea was described from Natal ( Butler 1870), and is known from South Africa to Angola, Congo and Somalia ( Evans 1937; Mendes & Bivar de Souza 2009). Larsen (1991) writes with regard to this species in Kenya: "This is one of the least rare species in this fascinating genus ... It is found on the coast, through the savannah country of eastern Kenya, north to the Turkana and Suk area." Sevastopulo (1974) reports it rare on the outskirts of the Makadara Forest, Shimba Hills. It is found in woodland at low to medium elevations throughout Tanzania.

Adult behaviour

In common with most of the genus, males are known to hill-top, flying around trees on top of small isolated hills (koppies) and ridges, and females occasionally come to flowers ( Cooper 1973, Dickson & Kroon 1978). Adults are also sometimes attracted to mud ( Cooper 1973). Adults rest with their wings open, or half open ( Trimen 1889).

I have only encountered adults of this species once – on the summit of a small hill-top just past Olepolos on the Magadi Road (5.xi.1989) ( Figure 34 View FIGURE 34 ). I have to thank Steve Collins for suggesting this site, which I would not have otherwise considered. Just as he predicted, I caught both A. paradisea ( Figure 46 View FIGURE 46 ) and A. tettensis on this hilltop at about mid-day. Hill-tops in dryland scrub are a likely place to find males of the dryland Abantis spp.

Food plants

Dollman (unpublished) found the caterpillars commonly at Solwezi, Zambia, on “kabalabala”, i.e. Afzelia quanzensis ( Fabaceae ) (N.D. Riley in Dollman unpublished) although it would be desirable to confirm this food plant record. At the Kenya coast, Sevastopulo (unpublished) found that the principal food plant is Bridelia cathartica ( ssp. melanthesioides ) ( Phyllanthaceae ) (on which I have also found caterpillars), but that they also utilise Annona senegalensis . In his earlier publications, Sevastopulo (1974, 1975) gives Annona sp. and Cola sp. ( Malvaceae ), but not B. cathartica , which was identified later and added in the supplement to his list of Lepidoptera food plants ( Sevastopulo 1981). In his East Africa list, van Someren (1974) gives only Hibiscus spp. , which may have been based on South African records. I.A.D. and S.A. Robertson (pers. comm. via MJWC in Larsen 1991) reared A. paradisea from a caterpillar they collected on Lecaniodiscus fraxinifolius ssp. vaughanii ( Sapindaceae ) growing in their garden in Malindi.

In Tanzania, TCEC has found A. paradisea on Zanzibar and east of Morogoro on Annona senegalensis ; at Madibira, Mbeya Region, on Xylopia nr. odoratissima (TCEC #587) ( Annonaceae ), Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia , Bridelia cathartica ( Phyllanthaceae ), and Xeroderris stuhlmannii ( Fabaceae ); and at Mikumi National Park on Philenoptera violacea (= Lonchocarpus capassa ) ( Fabaceae ). These and other published food plant records are summarised in Table 7.

Life history

The life history is illustrated in detail by G.C. Clark (in Dickson & Kroon 1978) from material from Natal (Umkomaas) on Hibiscus tiliaceus . Henning et al. 1997 illustrate the caterpillar and pupa in photographs. Here, we illustrate the life history, mainly from TCEC’s observations on Annona senegalensis on Zanzibar Island. These sources, as well as Sevastopulo’s (unpublished) observations for Kenya, are all consistent.


Ova are laid singly on the leaf upper surface. MJWC observed that ova collected on Bridelia cathartica at Malindi are white, 1.0mm diameter, with about 24 ribs, and the surface finely striate parallel to ribs. The ovum is neatly covered with about 35 long linear scales by the female ( Figure 47 View FIGURE 47 ). These scales measure 1.6 x 0.07mm, and are placed so that the pale end is spread out over the leaf surface and against the side of the ovum, while the dark end projects above the ovum.

Leaf shelters

The first shelter is a small oval one-cut shelter in the centre of the leaf lamina, close to the ovum from which the caterpillar hatched. The oval is hinged on a bridge around a major vein and folded over onto the top of the leaf; the lamina on each side of the bridge is pulled together to make a small keel to the shelter, which is somewhat raised at this end. The caterpillar feeds on the leaf upper surface under the shelter, skeletonising it. This feeding extends to the leaf upper surface of the flap which may be perforated, and in irregular patches to the leaf upper surface adjacent to the shelter. The second shelter is similar, but larger, and the third shelter is formed between two leaves of the food plant (Sevastopulo unpublished). The shelters described by Henning et al. (1997) are similar.


Instar 1 ( Figure 48.1 View FIGURE 48 ). The head measures 0.64 x 0.67mm wide x high (n=1); it is dark brown, strongly reticulated and has scattered pale petiolated stellate hairs.

Instar 2 ( Figure 48.2–3 View FIGURE 48 ) is brown-green with the head brown. The head measures 0.79 x 0.76 mm wide x high (n=1); It is covered with long branched and sub-branched hairs dorsally and laterally, those on posterior margin and apices dark, the remainder pale; on the face the hairs are much shorter but also branched and fuzzy. T1 dorsal plate dark, with small transparent subdorsal bump.

Final instars are described by Sevastopulo (unpublished) from several caterpillars collected at Nyali as having the head “black, thickly clothed with outstanding, fuzzy, grey-brown hair”; T1 “with black transverse bar and narrower than the rest of body”; body stout, “grey-green, sometimes tinged with lavender, and covered with short white pubescence”; A2–A8 “each with a round, yellow, subdorsal and lateral spot connected by a black bar”, the lateral spot on A2 and A8 very small; A1 with only a “single yellow lateral dot”. Ventrum, legs and prolegs “greygreen”. Sevastopulo also found that many caterpillars which he tried to rear died, paralleling my experience with N. canopus . Sleeving might be a more successful rearing technique for these species. The caterpillars shown in Figure 49 View FIGURE 49 were reared by TCEC from Zanzibar. In these, the dorsolateral and lateral spots are present on A2–A8; A8 has just a single lateral yellow spot; there is at least a variable dark spot above the dorsolateral yellow spot and below the lateral spot; a black dot subdorsally mid segment T3–A6.

The caterpillar painted by Dollman (unpublished) in dorsal view is similar to that shown in Figure 49 View FIGURE 49 , but the spots are more extensive: A1 has an obvious yellow spot in line with the upper yellow spots on A2–A7; A7 has a lower yellow spot in line with those on segments A2–A6; A8 has stronger black spots above and below the yellow spot. Henning et al. (1997) show a caterpillar which compared to Figure 49 View FIGURE 49 has slightly different spots of what seems to be a paler yellow: A1 has a yellow lateral spot; A2 has a small yellow spot in the black band joining the two yellow spots; A8 has two yellow lateral spots, the lower one much smaller.


The pupa is yellowish-bone colour, lightly covered with white waxy powder; T2 with anterior pale olive brown dorsal stripe and a pale olive brown line along the inner margin of the wing case; shape rounded, the head with a fairly long, upturned, central process, bifid at the tip; T1 spiracle very large, olive brown with a protuberant, posterior lobe (Sevastopulo unpublished). The pupal stage lasted 10 days at the coast. The pupa shown in Figure 50 View FIGURE 50 was reared by TCEC from Zanzibar; it is newly formed and the caterpillar markings are still visible laterally on the abdomen.

There are three empty and four complete dry pupae from the Dollman collection, in the NHM, together with one empty pupa from the van Someren collection (locality indecipherable, Nov [19]33). They are similar to Figure 50 View FIGURE 50 ; frontal projection short, the distal portion turned upwards and bifurcate, but not as strongly as A. zambesiaca ; brown, with the apices darker.

Trimen (1889) quotes a report by Colonel Bowker that a number of pupae were found in Natal in the rotting stumps of a wooden fence. It is difficult to know how to interpret this observation, which does not match other observations or our experience.

Three of the complete dry pupae from the Dollman collection in the NHM had been parasitized by a large Hymenoptera or tachinid, which made an exit hole of about 3mm diameter. Dollman (unpublished) noted that the pupae are commonly parasitized by a large black chalcid (perhaps a Brachymeria sp. ?), a light yellow ichneumonid and a medium sized tachinid. Clark (in Dickson & Kroon 1978) noted that the caterpillar is parasitized by a Thecocarcelia sp. ( Tachinidae ).