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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Small Elfin

Afrikaans name: Kleinkaboutertjie

Small Elfin butterfly

Small Elfin

Photo © Steven Herbert

Sarangesa phidyle

This is a cryptically coloured butterfly which has a wingspan around 35 mm. Male and female have similar colouration. The upper wing colouration varies slightly between summer and winter. During winter the dark markings, that are present on the forewing, are more pronounced. The underwing is orangey in colour. There are a number of other species that are similar in looks.

The Small Elfin is found up the eastern coast of South Africa from Port Elizabeth. It also occurs in the north-eastern regions of the country. It is most commonly found in savanna habitat.

It occurs in a number of different habitats including hillsides, gullies, wooded savanna and the edges of forests. A strange feature of this species is that it perches in the shade as much as possible. They may even seek refuge from the sun by resting inside burrows made by Warthogs or Antbears. They normally rest close to the ground. This butterfly may be seen at any time of year but is more common in summer.

The larvae mainly feed on species of Peristrophe and Barleria.

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References and further reading

Butterflies of Southern Africa - A field guide - Author: Mark Williams - Year Published: 1994 - Page: 242

Butterflies of the Kruger National Park - Author: Johan Kloppers and the late Dr. G. Van Son - Year Published: 1978 - Page: 86

Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa - Author: Steve Woodhall - Year Published: 2005 - Page: 366

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