CAPE AUTUMN WIDOW

Despite the ongoing heat, nature has its own way of signalling the approach of autumn: in our garden the Erythrina caffra leaves are turning brown and swirl about in the breezes to land in layers on the lawn and bank up on the sides of the driveway; many of the weavers are starting to lose their breeding sartorial sharpness and look tatty and unkempt; and then there is the appearance of the butterflies.

The appearance of the velvety brown Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) is a sure sign of the impending autumn as these butterflies only appear during March and April. True to form, they tend to fly very low and are not as easy to photograph as one might think. I ‘captured’ this one in the long kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) growing at the fort in Post Retief, in the Eastern Cape. I think this one is a female, but cannot be sure – images I have seen of males show more orange than yellow – and it may well have been laying eggs in the thick grass.

Cape Autumn Widow

The wing pattern shows prominent yellow circles surrounding the black dots with blue centres. There is generally a reason for the specific colouring and patterns that appear in nature and so I assume this dramatic pattern must serve the purpose of repelling the birds that would otherwise eat them.

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