Monday, March 9, 2009

Common Rose

Common Rose
(Pachliopta Aristolochiae Fabricius)

  • Description:  
  • Male: The Upperside of male is velvety black. Fore wing with well-marked pale adnervular streaks on the discal area that do not reach the terminal margin, the latter broadly velvety black; the streaks beyond end of cell extended inwards into its apex.Hind wing with elongate white discal markings in interspaces 2-5 beyond the cell.In dry-weather specimens these markings are very short and do not nearly reach the bases of the interspaces; beyond these a curved series of subterminal lunular markings in interspaces 1 to 7 dull crimson irrorated with black scales, the spot in interspace 1 large, irregular, diffuse, margined interiorly with white.On the Underside of the males, the ground-colour and markings is similar, but the red subterminal spots on the hind wing much brighter;it is not irrorated with black scales, better defined, the anterior four subquadrate, the next two crescentic, sometimes quadrate also, the spot in interspace 1 triangular and pointed. Antennae, thorax and abdomen above up to the preanal segment black; the head, sides of prothorax above, and of the whole of the thorax and abdomen beneath vermilion-red; anal segment vermilion-red.
  • Female: Female is similar the males; they differs from the male only in the comparatively broader wings and this is most conspicuous in the fore wing. 
  • Distribution: Common Rose is distributed all over the Oriental Region and is very common throughout India. It is found mainly in open, cultivated areas, scrubs and deciduous forests. A common Visitor to garden flowers, it is also seen in most crowded cities. it is more frequent during very cold or very hot period of the year.
  • Habits: It is the commonest of the large tailed butterflies of India and one of the most interesting butterflies for the Indian amateur naturalist to observe. The red body, slow peculiar flight, bright colouration and pattern of the wings are meant to indicate to predators that this butterfly is inedible, being well protected by the poisons it has sequestered from its larval food plant. It also emits a nasty smelling substance when handled to further enhance its unappealing qualities. Hence it is rarely attacked by predators, a strategy so successful, that edible butterflies have evolved to mimic it, the classical example being that of the female morph of the Common Mormon that is Papilio polytes, female form stichius. The Common Rose is active much earlier in the mornings than most butterflies and remains so throughout the day until dusk. It flies just as readily in the shade as in the sun, and frequently visits flowers. In drier regions around noon, the butterfly rests in thickets to avoid the mid-day heat. Here, it will rest and ventures forth only in the late afternoon once again. In the evenings, it retires into wooded areas or thickets in search of dead twigs or small branches on which to roost. It prefers sites that are 10 to 15 feet above ground, below the canopy in trees with sufficient cover from the elements, where it frequently roosts in the company of others of its type, and, sometimes, in the company of the Crimson Rose.
  • Reproduction: The female has been observed inspecting the host plants and selecting healthy plants with verdant growth to ensure adequacy of food for its voracious caterpillars. It lays round and reddish eggs with fine black markings. The eggs are laid singly on top, the underside of leaves or even on shoots. The caterpillar is a beautiful velvety maroon colour and has a beautiful white band on a segment on its middle reminiscent of a belt or collar. It has numerous fleshy red-tipped white protuberances on the body. It is bulky and slow in its movements. It is a beautiful caterpillar. The Pupa is brownish with various shades of brown and pink markings. It is attached to its support by the tail and held at an angle by a body band. The support is usually a stick. The distinguishing feature of the Common Rose pupa is the presence of large semi-circular projections on the back of the abdomen, thorax and head.
Caterpillar of Common Rose

Pupa of Common Rose

  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on creepers and climbers of the genus Aristolochia, Family Aristolochiaceae and they sequester toxins such as aristolochic acid in their bodies. This makes the adults toxic to vertebrate predators such as birds and reptiles. However the Braconid wasps which parasitise the caterpillars have apparently co-evolved with the butterfly and are not affected by the toxins. Larval foodplants include :-
    • Aristolochia bracteolata ( Kitamari)
    • Aristolochia indica. [Isarmul {Hindi}, Sapsanda {Marathi}]