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Acraea horta (Garden acraea butterfly)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Panorpida > Amphiesmenoptera > Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) > Glossata > Coelolepida > Myoglossata > Neolepidoptera > Heteroneura > Ditrysia > Apoditrysia > Obtectomera > Macrolepidoptera > Rhopalocera (butterflies) > Papilionoidea > Family: Nymphalidae > Subfamily: Heliconiinae > Tribe: Acraeini > Genus: Acraea

Acraea horta (Garden acraea butterfly) Acraea horta (Garden acraea butterfly)

Adult male, Linwood. [photo Steve Woodhall ]

Adults mating: the female (left) is paler and browner than the more reddish-patterned male (photo. N. Larsen)

Acraea horta (Garden acraea butterfly) Acraea horta (Garden acraea butterfly)

Larva (host plant is Wild peach ). In summer the larvae take 4-5 weeks to develop, passing through 6 instars, whereas in winter development is arrested by the cold temperatures so the larval period is considerably longer.

Pupa. Mature larvae can walk a long distance to find a suitable pupation site which is usually against a wall or rock. To pupate, the larva spins a silken pad to which the pupa is attached.

The Garden acraea is one of the commonest butterflies in Cape Town gardens but can be found in woodlands and gardens throughout the moister regions of South Africa, and is also known from Zimbabwe (and Mozambique?). Picker and Griffiths (1989) deal thoroughly with the parasitic wasps and flies that attack the different life stages. Balinsky (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1986) studied variation and heritability in this species; his findings are summarised by Fabian (2009).


  • Eggs are laid in clusters of about 40 (about 150 maximum per cluster) on leaves of the host plant - either Wild Peach Kiggelaria africana or a species in the Passifloraceae. They take about nine days to hatch. The young larvae are gregarious (i.e. they keep together) but as development proceeds, they spread out.

Host plants


  • Balinsky, B.I. 1974. Ten generations inbreeding of Acraea horta (L.) (Lepidoptera). Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa 37: 9-86.

  • Balinsky, B.I. 1977. Inheritanceof wing colour in females of the butterfly Acraea horta. Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa 40: 1-11.

  • Balinsky, B.I. 1979. Variation and inheritance of wing spotting in the butterfly Acraea horta (L.). Rev. Zool. Afr. 93: 810-879.

  • Balinsky, B.I. 1981. Immediate and delated effects of radiation on the genetic endowment of the butterfly, Acraea horta L. South African Journal of Science 77: 162-167.

  • Balinsky, B.I. 1986. Early differentiation in the egg of the butterfly, Acraea horta under normal conditions and after ultraviolet irradiation. Acta Embryol. Morph. Exp. 6: 103-141.

  • Claassens, A.J.M. & Dickson, C.G.C. 1980. The Butterflies of the Table Mountain Range. C. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

  • Fabian, B. 2009. Balinsky's Darwinian roots. South African Journal of Science 105: 410-414.

  • Picker, M. & Griffiths, C. 1989. Insects within insects. Sagittarius 4(1): 12-15.

Text by Hamish G. Robertson