Woolly Legs

Lachnocnema sp.

Lachnocnema butterfly photo © by Michael Plagens

Perched within the branches of Vangueria and a few centimeters from the probable source, a cluster of cercopid nymphs. West of Eldoret, Kenya, April 2013. Wingspan is about 17mm.

In popular culture butterflies are often identified as symbols of peace and harmony. They flutter about with brilliant colors stopping to sip nectar cocktails at flowers. We are okay with knowing that their caterpillars eat leaves of various plants.

Woolly Legs butterflies belong to the Spittle BugSpittle Bug (from Wikipedia) Miletinae, a subfamily of the Lycaenidae, commonly called Harvesters and Woolly Legs, and are virtually unique among butterflies in having predatory larvae. Miletinae are entirely aphytophagous (do not feed on plants). The ecology of the Miletinae is little understood but adults and larvae live in association with ants and feed on Homoptera (aphids, coccids, membracids and psyllids). The butterflies, ants and Homoptera seem to have complex symbiotic relationships benefiting all.

The butterfly here was observed in close proximity to the spittlebugs shown at right. Follow the thumb links for more information about the probable host relationship.

Lycaenidae -- Hairstreak and Blue Butterfly Family

More Information:

Kenya Natural History

Copyright Michael J. Plagens. Page created 25 Nov. 2013