Caenides dacela Hewitson, 1876

Cock, Matthew J. W., Congdon, Colin E. & Collins, Steve C., 2014, Observations on the biology of Afrotropical Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera). Part 6. Hesperiinae incertae sedis: palm feeders, Zootaxa 3831 (1), pp. 1-61: 52-54

publication ID

publication LSID


persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Caenides dacela Hewitson, 1876


Caenides dacela Hewitson, 1876  

Caenides dacela   was originally described from the island of Bioko (= Fernando Po) ( Hewitson 1876), and there are numerous records from Guinea and Sierra Leone (a Gambia record is in error) to Uganda, ( Evans 1937, Larsen 2005), southern Sudan (T.B. Larsen, pers. comm. 2013), western Kenya ( Larsen 1991), western Tanzania ( Kielland 1990) and northern Zambia ( Heath et al. 2002). The record from Kenya was based on material reared by MJWC, who on three occasions found caterpillars on one particular Phoenix reclinata   palm in the northern part of Kakamega Forest. ABRI collectors have since reared this species from the same food plant near Kakamega ( Collins 2008) and it is likely to occur more widely, perhaps in other western areas of Kenya where the food plant occurs.

Adult behaviour. Not observed, but likely to be a dusk flier. Kielland (1990) says it visits flowering herbs and low bushes in shady forest.

Food plants. Le Pelley (1959), Sevastopulo (1975) and Kielland (1990) give P. dactylifera   as the food plant, the first reference referring to Uganda. Heath et al. (2002) refer to a specimen reared by TCEC and I. Bampton, and give the food plants as P. dactylifera   and Raphia spp.   (repeated in Vande weghe 2010), but since TCEC did not rear C. dacela   from these palms in his collaboration with Bampton, we discount these food plant records.

In Kakamega Forest, Kenya, MJWC collected this species from P. reclinata   (not P. dactylifera   as stated in Larsen 1991). TCEC reared it from the same food plant in western Tanzania (forests of Mpanda, Kigoma and Kagera), but from a rattan palm, Eremospatha sp.   in northern Zambia.

Leaf shelters. The first instar shelter ( Kenya) is made either by cutting two notches from the edge of a leaflet and folding the resultant flap over upwards, or by cutting a notch from one side just before the apex of a leaflet, and pulling together the distal portion. The shelter of the young caterpillar ( Zambia) is in the tip of a tatty old leaflet, and the caterpillar is coloured to match ( Figure 54.1 View FIGURE 54 ). The shelter has been opened, and the caterpillar is in the process of pulling it shut again. From a human perspective, this is not the sort of place one would look to find a caterpillar, so may be a good survival strategy for the caterpillar. The fifth instar caterpillar forms a shelter between two leaflets.

Ovum. Two ova collected on Phoenix   in association with early stages of C. dacela   (Alupe, near Busta, western Kenya, 18 Jun 2006, SCC) are thought to be C. dacela   as they are not Zophopetes dysmephila   , the species commonly found on Phoenix spp.   These eggs are 1.5mm diameter, dome-shaped, with 31 weak ribs.

Caterpillar. The following notes are based on collection 90/76 on P. reclinata   , north Kakamega Forest. There are five instars, the head capsules measuring 0.8 x 0.8, 1.2 x 1.2, 1.7 x 1.7, 2.4 x 2.7 and 3.7 x 4.0mm wide x high, respectively. The first instar has a uniformly dark head. The second instar caterpillars have a light brown head with the posterior margin dark; body green. The third instar is shown when newly moulted in Figure 53.1 View FIGURE 53 : 8mm; head light brown, reticulate pattern faintly apparent on front of epicranial, posterior margin dark; body dark brown dorsally, light brown ventrally. The fourth instar, also newly moulted, is shown in Figure 53.2 View FIGURE 53 : head similar to previous instar, but reticulate pattern slightly more evident; faint trace of lateral band. The mature fifth instar is shown in Figure 53.3–4 View FIGURE 53 : 32mm; head with broad brown stripe down centre; light brown band down anterolateral margin; light brown posteriorly; dark posterior margin. Body dull grey; dorsal line dark; subdorsal and dorsolateral lines dull yellow; paler ventrolaterally and ventrally; anal plate paler on posterior margin; all legs concolorous; spiracles light brown, inconspicuous. The wax glands develop as a continuous ventral mass from A1 to A8. Two caterpillars collected in the first instar moulted after 6 days, and the following instars lasted 6, 8, 10 and 17–21 days respectively.

The caterpillars which TCEC documented from Tanzania and Zambia ( Figure 54 View FIGURE 54 ) are compatible with those found in Kenya by MJWC ( Figure 53 View FIGURE 53 ).

Pupa. The pupa is formed in a shelter of one or two leaflets, and held with a single strand silk girdle ( Figure 55 View FIGURE 55 ); rather uniformly brown, no setae evident. The inside of the shelter and the cast final instar skin are well covered with white waxy powder, but the pupa only lightly so. The pupal stage lasts 20–24 days under Nairobi conditions.

Natural enemies. One of two ova collected by SCC at Alupe , western Kenya, 18 Jun 2006, had an egg parasitoid (probably Trichogrammatidae   ) exit hole of 0.35mm diameter   .














Caenides dacela Hewitson, 1876

Cock, Matthew J. W., Congdon, Colin E. & Collins, Steve C. 2014

Phoenix reclinata

, Oct 2010

Caenides dacela

Hewitson 1876