Hilltopping (sitting on my rucksack), Málaga, August 2020
The same butterfly in context, Málaga, August 2020
Gibraltar, 1983 - my first encounter with two-tailed pashas
This is the sole European
of a largely Afrotropical genus of large, powerful butterflies -
indeed, the sole European member of this subfamily, the Charaxinae.
The Mediterranean represents the northern limit of this species, which
ranges in several subspecies throughout the African continent as far as
South Africa and is the type species for a group of related
butterflies, the Charaxes
jasius group. It is not rare in Europe but is quite local,
being dependent on the presence of its foodplant, the strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo.
The underside is quite unmistakable.
The upperside, seen more rarely at rest but easily visible in the
swooping, gliding flight, shares the broad, orange border, doubled on
forewings, but is otherwise largely a uniform brown colour with some
blue spots inside the orange band on the hindwings. This is a fearless,
territorial butterfly that will swoop at you and even land on you; but
equally, it is ever alert and will not sit around waiting while you
creep round to the other side for a photo from a different angle. I am
told your best chances are when it lands on fermenting (or laced)
fruit, which it loves - especially bananas.
The species is
double brooded, flying in May and June and then again from late July to
September. It hibernates as a larva.