Chondrolepis Mabille, 1904,

Cock, Matthew J. W. & Congdon, T. Colin E., 2014, Observations on the biology of Afrotropical Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera). Part 7. Hesperiinae incertae sedis: grass and bamboo feeders, Zootaxa 3872 (4), pp. 301-354: 328

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Chondrolepis Mabille, 1904


Chondrolepis Mabille, 1904  (in Mabille 1903–1904)

In his review of the genus, De Jong (1986) found that based on an analysis of adult characters Chondrolepis  seems to form a monophyletic group with Ploetzia  and Moltena  , with Zophopetes  as their nearest relative. We have treated the early stages of the palm feeders Ploetzia  and Zophopetes  in Cock et al. (2014), while Moltena  will be considered in a future part of this series. We defer comparison of the characters of the early stages of this group of genera until then.

Congdon & Larsen (2012) described two further species making a total of nine now known. Chondrolepis uluguru Larsen & Congdon  was described and reared from the Uluguru  Mountains of north-east Tanzania, and C. ducarmei Larsen & Congdon  was described from North Kivu Province, DR Congo. The genus is associated with montane forests in Africa. Chondrolepis niveicornis (Plötz)  is relatively widespread and adapted to more open and lowland habitats, but the other species are restricted to particular highland or mountain areas.

The conspicuously white antennae seem to be associated with red eyes and crepuscular habits. They are certainly effective signals at dusk; for example, MJWC has watched a male C. leggei (Heron)  feeding in the last light, with only the antennae visible. Similarly, in the Aberdare Mountains of Kenya, T.B. Larsen (pers. comm. 2014) observed a male courtship flight in dull weather in very dark montane forest, hovering above a seated female; only the white antennae of the male were visible as they moved slightly forwards and backwards as a fine white-V.

When De Jong (1986) reviewed the genus, the only food plant record available was for C. niveicornis niveicornis (Plötz)  feeding on a broad leaved grass of river banks and swamps. Le Pelley (1959) records the food plant in Uganda as Imperata cylindrica  , and this is probably the origin of this food plant record in Sevastopulo (1975), Kielland (1990), Larsen (1991), Ackery et al. (1995), and Heath et al. (2002). Dickson & Kroon (1978) describe the food plant as a broad-leaved grass that grows on river banks and in swamps, which is referred to as Panicum deustum  by Pringle et al. (1994) and Heath et al. (2002).

Observations reported here (and in Larsen 1991) suggest that grasses will be the food plants for the whole genus. Although several different broad leaved species seem acceptable, probably the habitat is just as critical in determining the food plant.