Aeropetes tulbaghia (Table mountain beauty, Mountain pride)      

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Panorpida > Amphiesmenoptera > Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) > Glossata > Coelolepida > Myoglossata > Neolepidoptera > Heteroneura > Ditrysia > Apoditrysia > Obtectomera > Macrolepidoptera > Rhopalocera (butterflies) > Superfamily: Papilionoidea > Family: Nymphalidae > Subfamily: Satyrinae > Genus: Aeropetes

Aeropetes tulbaghia feeding on the nectar of Syncarpha eximia (Strawberry everlasting), Outeniqua Mountains, Western Cape, South Africa, 24 February 2007. [photo H.S. Staude ]

Aeropetes tulbaghia (Table mountain beauty, Mountain pride)  Aeropetes tulbaghia (Table mountain beauty, Mountain pride)

Aeropetes tulbaghia (Table mountain beauty, Mountain pride) male, Sehonghong. [photos Steve Woodhall ]

Mounted specimen of adult Aeropetes tulbaghia. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ] Final instar larva found wandering across gravel road, Kirstenbosch. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

Identification

  • It is the largest satyrine (Brown) butterfly in southern Africa.

Distribution and habitat

The Mountain beauty is found mainly in moutainous areas from the Cape Peninsula right up through the Drakensberg mountains to the Nyanga Mountains in eastern Zimbabwe.

Life cycle

  • Eggs are scattered around among grass by the female while settled, and hatch after 9-13 days.
  • Larvae feed on grasses and pass through 6 instars, with the final instar measuring 60-65 mm. Early instars feed on the grass day and night but larger larvae shelter at the base by day and feed on the grass by night.
  • The pupa is about 27mm long and is suspended head downwards by the cremastral hooks at the end of the abdomen, presumably on the side of a rock.
  • The adult butterfly emerges from the pupa. The female needs to mate and lay eggs. Butterflies are able to prolong their lifespan by feeding on nectar from flowers. There are a number of plants in both fynbos and montane grasslands that have red flowers, specially adapted for pollination by Aeropetes tulbaghia. The Red disa Disa uniflora, is the most familiar example but there are many others (see list below)
  • There are two broods per year: (1) eggs are laid in autumn, hatch and the larvae develop through the winter months, pupate and emerge as adults in spring and early summer; (2) the adult females of the winter generation lay eggs from spring to early summer and produce larvae that develop fast under the warm summer conditions. They pupate and emerge in late summer and autumn to lay eggs of the winter generation.

Ecological interactions

Flower visitation

Visits red-coloured flowers of the following species, pollinating them in the process:

Host plants of larvae

Derivation of name

The genus name. People, including authors, often refer to the Mountain Beauty erroneously as Meneris tulbaghia rather than Aeropetes tulbaghia. How did this confusion arise? 

  • Linnaeus in 1764 described the species as Papilio tulbaghia.  

  • Billberg in 1820 evidently created the genus Aeropetes to hold Papilio tulbaghia and a castniid moth (i.e. he was pretty incompetent as a taxonomist) but he did not select a type species for the genus so the genus was poorly defined.  

  • Doubleday in 1844 described the genus Meneris for which the type species was Papilio tulbaghia (by monotypy, i.e. it was the type species because it was the only species included under this genus by Doubleday). 

  • In 1943 Hemming cleared up the mess in the genus Aeropetes by selecting (by subsequent designation)  Papilio tulbaghia as the type species for this genus rather than the moth. As this genus was created earlier than Meneris it is therefore the valid genus for the Mountain beauty. If Hemming had selected the moth as the type species of Aeropetes, then Meneris would have become the valid genus name for this butterfly.  

The species name. Claassens & Dickson (1980): "The butterfly was named after Ryk Tulbagh, governor of the Cape from 1751 until his death in 1771. He shared the prevalent general passion for natural history, particularly botany. Tulbagh sent plants and insects, not necessarily collected by himself, to Linnaeus in Sweden and to other famous authorities in Europe. The Mountain Pride must have been in one of those collections and Linnaeus promptly named this 'exotic' species after the Governor." 

References

  • Ackery, P.R., Smith, C.R. and Vane-Wright, R.I. 1995. Carcasson's African Butterflies. An Annotated Catalogue of the Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea of the Afrotropical Region. CSIRO, Australia.

  • Claassens, A.J.M. & Dickson, C.G.C. 1980. The Butterflies of the Table Mountain Range. C. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

  • Johnson S.D. and Bond W.J. 1994. Red flowers and butterfly pollination in the fynbos of South Africa. pp. 137-148 in M. Arianoutsou and R. Groves (editors), Plant Animal Interactions in Mediterranean-type Ecosystems. Kluwer Academic Press, Dordrecht.

  • van Son, G. 1955. The Butterflies of Southern Africa. Part II. Nymphalidae: Danainae and Satyrinae. Transvaal Museum Memoir No. 8. Transvaal Museum, Pretoria.

Text by Hamish G. Robertson


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