Ink sketch and W&N watercolour in Moleskine 200gsm sketch-book
How often have you driven along a country road and seen thousands of white butterflies crossing the road, all going the same way? It is well-known sight during summer and autumn in South Africa, when large numbers of Pioneer White butterflies migrate north-east over the interior.
The butterflies originated from the Southern African interior, where most of their larval host plants grow naturally. The good rains in January and February and the subsequent rush of new leaves saw the females laying their eggs on their specific food plants in great abundance. Within days millions of tiny caterpillars hatched and ate their way steadily but surely “out of house and home”.
These caterpillars then pupated and emerged as butterflies, to go in search of a mate and a new food plant to lay their eggs upon, and so the cycle continues until the larval food plant supply is finished. This phenomenon is known as population explosion.
Adults that have as yet not procreated will disperse to look for their food plants elsewhere and will somehow keep moving in a south-easterly direction towards the sea off Mozambique. Most will unfortunately perish en route due to total exhaustion. A few nectar plants in your garden helps to sustain the travellers!
“The Pioneer White or African Caper White (Belenois aurota) (Afrikaans: Grasveldwitjie) is a small to medium-sized butterfly of the Family Pieridae, that is, the Yellows and Whites, which is found in South Asia and Africa. In Africa, it is also known as the Brown-veined White.
In Africa, the host plants are almost exclusively from the family Capparaceae (Caper) and in particular the genera Boscia, Maerua and Capparis. Eggs are laid in batches of 20 or so, and the larvae are an olive colour with a long black line down its side and a distinct glossy jet-black head."
From my portfolio of Insects
Photographic print – available in S, M, L and XL – for the Lepidoptera-lover
Mounted print with Black border