Brown-veined White Butterflies (Belenois aurota) are fairly easily recognised. Other common names for this butterfly include Pioneer, Pioneer White and Caper White.

There is a touch of yellow in the wings of this one.

The wings of this one are a little ragged.

Is this a much younger one? Looked at from above, it looks different – is it a Brown-veined White?

Dozens of these butterflies were flying above and in between the grass on the edge of town last month – perhaps these were the vanguard of the enormous migrations that had many South Africans agog at their numbers earlier in the year. Apparently these butterflies need to frequently replenish themselves with nectar to avoid dehydration and are particularly attracted to grass nectar – which would explain the numbers of them that settled briefly on the long grass.

Their annual north-easterly migration usually occurs during mid-summer, although the actual timing may depend on factors such as drought and rain. During this time they provide food for other insects and birds.


The seasons have turned and, if we’re not already sure of that, we could tell by the variety of butterflies flitting through the garden. Most are too high or too fast for me to capture and then there is a host of Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) butterflies that fly slowly just above the level of the grass, often settling on bare patches of ground.

These velvety brown butterflies only appear during March and April, when the warm, dry days provide perfect flying conditions. They sometimes land on the bricks surrounding the pool and wait obligingly to be photographed.

We have watched them with delight as they skim the lawn and dip into the surface of the pool in passing. Sadly, some take a dip too far:

During one teatime we rescued three Cape Autumn Widows in less than a minute – all within seconds of them landing in the water. Here is one on the pool net:

We have since covered the pool to slow down evaporation. This is another rescued butterfly, pausing to dry its wings. Doubtless the eyespots help to protect them from predatory birds – it is interesting that they are clear on the underside too:

I am pleased to report that it was able to continue its flight – many more were not as fortunate.

These photographs were taken with my aged cell phone.


Aren’t we all migrants of one kind or another? We move from home to holiday in other places, or even to settle somewhere else for good because we prefer the climate; find the living conditions are better; the standard of education is more to our liking; or it is where we can find work that we find more challenging / satisfying/ better paid. The freedom to move is one we have tended to take for granted, whether it is going for a walk / run / cycle; going to shop; or for leisure. Now that so many of us are confined to our homes we are chafing at the bit to ‘get out’ and to be on the move once more. We are restless creatures.

With more time in which to observe the goings on in our garden, I am intrigued by the numbers and variety of butterflies flitting across the open spaces. Once we can visit the shops again I am going to have to find a more comprehensive guide to the butterflies we have in this country – there are so many of them waiting to be identified as they migrate across the country from one place to the next. At the moment, during our lock down period, butterflies epitomize freedom. In February I found an African Migrant sitting on a tar road while I was out walking. How delightful it was, only a few weeks later, to spot this one at a picnic spot in the Pilanesberg National Park – unbeknownst to me at the time it was to be my last outing before lock down!

So, here it is, going about the business of butterflies with the freedom to migrate as it pleases.

If I sound wistful, this is lock down Day Nine.


Usually the Brown-veined White Butterflies (Belenois aurota) migrate all over South Africa from late November to mid-February, depending on the weather conditions.

It is our most common butterfly and occurs in most areas in South Africa. While the main migration appears to be over for this season, a few stragglers still pass through the garden now and then. Judging from the travel torn wings of the one in the photograph below, I should perhaps say a few ‘ragglers’ can be seen now and then.

As these fragile looking creatures fly long distances, laying eggs as they go, and have been known to fly as far as Mozambique and even across to Madagascar, it is important to maintain several nectar-bearing plants in our gardens to provide some sustenance for them.