The greater Durban area in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province is the most diverse in South Africa when it comes to butterflies. It is for this very reason that areas free from invasive vegetation are butterfly magnets. One such place is the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve.
In mid-April 2019, butterfly expert and author Steve Woodhall went on an expedition to search for paradise skippers on a hilltop in the reserve. He was joined by Mark Liptrot, a local butterfly lover who is responsible for the reserve’s butterfly list. Little did they know that the day of their outing would deliver a rare sighting.
Despite Liptrot finding himself in Krantzkloof more than once a week and Woodhall once a month, it was the first time in history that a bicoloured skipper (Abantis bicolor) was recorded inside the reserve.
“It has been photographed in gardens close to the reserve, and there have been unconfirmed sightings, but this is the first time it has been photographed inside the reserve boundaries,” says Woodhall.
This is a rare South African endemic eastern lowland forest butterfly whose range has shrunk due to development. It was once found from East London to Ongoye Forest near Eshowe, but has been disappearing from its southern localities.
Great butterfly habitat
Woodhall says Krantzkloof is a great place for butterfly sightings because of the different habitats. “There is everything from lowland forest, scarp forests to endangered KwaZulu-Natal sandstone sourveld grassland,” explains Woodhall. “The latter is extremely rich in host plant species, ideal for a large selection of butterfly species.”
In addition, the reserve is largely free from alien plants and has plenty of small hilltops where butterflies tend to congregate.
Other special butterfly species to find in Krantzkloof
Woodhall and Liptrot found 67 of the reserve’s 174 butterfly species during their outing. Krantzkloof, which falls within the Kloof Conservancy, offers lepidopterists (entomologist who specialises in studying butterflies and moths) the opportunity to spot some rare butterfly species, which include the only population of the yellowish Amakoza rocksitter (Durbania amakoza flavida) inside a reserve. In Krantzkloof, the Karkloof charaxes (Charaxes karkloof karkloof) occur in the cool sheltered forests of the reserve, at a much lower elevation than its home in the Midlands, explains Woodhall.
Learn more about butterflies
Join the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa.
Explore, learn and identify over 800 species with the Woodhall’s Butterflies of South Africa app, available on Google Play and App Store.
For information on Krantzkloof, visit www.kknr.org.za
Written by René de Klerk
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