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Caught Dancing Acraea
Location: Masai Mara, Kenya
June 5, 2011 1:24 pm
Hi Daniel,
Thought you might like this picture of a Dancing Acraea (Hyalites eponina) caught in a Community Nest Spiders’ web (Stegodyphus sp.).
Judging by the worn out wings, I reckon the butterfly had been there for a little while, and the spiders did not seem interested in it. Stegodyphus spiders are generally quite small, but they feed communally. I wonder if this butterfly was just to big for them?
Signature: Zarek

Dancing Acraea in Spider's Web

Hi Zarek,
Thanks so much for taking the time to properly identify your butterfly as a Dancing Acraea.  We were not familiar with this species, and we found a description on the Learn About Butterflies:  Butterflies of Africa website.  We are somewhat confused as to its name.  That site indicates the scientific name is
Acraea serena, but the Tree of Life website identifies it as Actinote serena, and the always questionable Wikipedia identifies it as Telchinia serena.  Biodiversity Explorer has wonderful information on the Communal Spiders or Social Spiders from the genus Stegodyphus.  We are going to tag this as a Food Chain image though you indicate this might not be truly accurate.

Hi Daniel,

Thanks so much for the reply.  My identification (Hyalites eponina)
came from my field guide to insects of southern africa and previous
knowledge.  I’ve looked through the websites you provide and they all
seem legit (except maybe wikipedia).
I’m not an expert myself, so I’ll try to get another opinion from a
local expert.
Here’s another ID:
http://www.insecta.co.za/insect/imagegal/lepidop/pages/image/imagepage56.html
Thanks again
Zarek

Hi Zarek,
We believe two different things are at play here regarding the Dancing Acraea.  First, probably several closely related species might have the same common name, and secondly, some taxonomic revisions might have occurred and they are not being reflected in the online postings.  One would think that a common name that refers to a specific genus would pertain to a member of that genus, and though the species in your photo might be
Hyalites eponina, the common name Dancing Acraea being given to a species in a genus other than Acraea does not seem logical.  Alas, DNA analysis might be necessary to get definite confirmation.  The truth of the matter is that insects could care less if they have names.  Genetic diversity might eventually result in new species and subspecies, and our human obsession with names and categorization may not be able to keep pace with insect evolution.

Hahaha…  great reply.  I always thought that insects were very
involved in their own naming process, taking great time and care and
deliberation over both scientific and common names.
As a matter of interest, another source (Field Guide to the
Butterflies of Southern Africa) calls the Small Orange/Dancing Acraea
‘Acraea eponina’, just to confuse us even more.
I don’t want to start a grammar war, but the correct phrase you might
be looking for is “…insects COULDN’T care less….”.  Saying that
they “COULD care less” means that they do care a little and can care
less than they already do.  Saying that they could NOT care less means
that they do not care at all and therefore have no capacity to care
less than they already do.
Sorry.  This is 100% fan-mail.  I’m just playing into your hands!
Zarek

Alas, we have no true editor on staff and all grammatical errors in our responses remain the responsibility of our self-censoring writing staff (of one).  You may also enjoy our handling of this anagrammatical faux pas from this past weekend.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination