Home / Guinean forests / Characteristics / The biodiversity / Animals / Insects


Of the tens of thousands of insects living in Guinean forests, only a few groups are relatively well known, in particular butterflies and dragonflies.


There are thousands of species of butterflies (Lepidoptera) in West Africa, divided into two main groups: moths (Heterocerans) and butterflies (Rhopalocerans).
There are more than 30 000 species of moths in sub-Saharan Africa, probably about half of which exist in West Africa.

Caligatus angasii, a beautiful moth of the Euteliidae family, is widespread in forested areas of Africa. East Nimba Nature Reserve © M. Languy
Some moths, like this Euchromia, of the Erebidae family, are very colourful and active during the day. Libassa, Liberia © M. Languy

There are nearly 1 500 species of butterfly in West Africa, i.e. more than a third of the 4 000 species known in sub-Saharan Africa. The exact number living in the forest or peri-forest zone is difficult to determine but certainly exceeds a thousand.

Butterflies are particularly important in forest ecosystems: as caterpillars, they are both plant predators and prey for many animals; they also play an essential role in the pollination of many flowers.

The Antimachus (Papilio antimachus), with a wingspan of up to 24cm, is the largest butterfly in Africa. It is rarely seen, except when it patrols the hilltops in search of females, as here in the East Nimba Nature Reserve. M. Languy

As for other groups, the rate of endemism among butterflies is high with at least 120 species endemic to Upper Guinea (limited to western Togo). In the Lower Guinea region, the area from the Cross River Loop to western Cameroon is exceptional: the region of Oban Hills and Korup forest alone is home to over 1 000 species, including several dozen of which are endemic.

Pyrrhochalcia iphis (Hesperidae family) is a large species of skipper, living in forests from Sierra Leone to Gabon; here in Sapo National Park. © M. Languy
Euphaedra modesta is a beautiful forest dweller (Nymphalidae family), endemic to Upper Guinea. © M. Languy
Another species endemic to Upper Guinea: Euriphene veronica, of the Nymphalidae family. © M. Languy
Another endemic to Guinean forests: Tetrahanis symplocus, of the Lycaenidae family. Diecke forest, Guinea. © M. Languy

Damselflies and dragonflies

The Odonata order includes two major groups: the Zygoptera, commonly called Damselflies, and the Anisoptera, called Dragonflies. There are over 300 species of Odonata in Upper and Lower Guinea.

[fr]Avec son corps très fin et ses ailes repliées au repos, Pseudagrion camerunense est un représentant typique du sous-ordre des Demoiselles. On la retrouve surtout près des eaux stagnantes, parfois des rivières, dans les espaces ouverts des forêts, de la Sierra Leone au Gabon. © M. Languy[en]Pseudagrion camerunense is typical of the damselflies suborder with its very slender body and folded wings at rest. It is mostly found near stagnant water and sometimes rivers, in open areas of the forest, from Sierra Leone to Gabon. © M. Languy
Chlorocypha luminosa lives exclusively in the forest and likes streams and small rivers. It is endemic to Upper Guinea.

Members of the suborder of "true dragonflies" are generally larger and typically spread their wings at rest.

Hadrothemis defecta, a typical member of the Anisoptera. It frequents the forests of West and Central Africa. © M. Languy
Orthetrum austeni, another species confined to the forests of West and Central Africa. © M. Languy

Other insects

Many other types of insects inhabit the Guinean forests. A brief sample is provided here to illustrate this diversity.

The tiger beetle Hipparidium interuptum, Sapo National Park. © M. Languy
Rhynocoris nitidulus (Hemiptera Order, Reduvidae family) is a type of reduviid. These are predators of other insects. Diecke forest, Guinea. © M. Languy
Pochazia albomaculata is a Hemiptera of the Ricaniidae family and looks a bit like a butterfly at first sight. Gola NP. © M. Languy

Termites are social insects, living in hierarchical colonies organised in castes. By feeding on dead wood, termites play an important role in the plant cycle. Some species build large earthen nests called termite mounds.

A termite mound in the undergrowth, Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone. © M. Languy
A column of ants moving eggs and larvae to settle in a new anthill. Soldier ants position themselves on either side of the column to defend it. © M. Languy.
A member of the Orthoptera order (locusts and grasshoppers) in the undergrowth of Sapo. © M. Languy
An unidentified insect, probably a cicadela nymph, Flatidae family. Sapo NP. © M. Languy
Gyna capucina, Blaberidae family. East Nimba Nature Reserve. © M. Languy