Monday, February 23, 2009

Plain Tiger

Plain Tiger
(Danaus chrysippus)
Plain tiger is one of the commonest butterflies you come across in the city. Beautiful butterfly with black
border and white spots, it's wingspan sizes between 70-80mm. This is a Tawny, medium-sized butterfly. 

  • Male Upperside: Reddish reddish brown with black borders in both wings and black apex in fore wing. Fore wing with variable number of white spots in the costal and apex. Hind wing with 4 small black spots around the cell in Male . The fourth spot in male is a cluster of scent-scales that attract females. 
  • Male Underside:  Dull orange. Fore wing dark brown in the upper half with white spots in the black area and hind wings with six black spots. 
  • Female Upperside and underside: The coloration and marking of forewing similar to male. Hind wing has 3black spots around the cell instead of 4 in male. Underside same as of Male.
  • Also known as the African Monarch, the African Queen, the Lesser Wanderer and the AK Butterfly, it is the commonest of all Indian butterflies and the strongest flier of the genus Danaus. Found throughout the country, including the deserts and in the hills up to 3000m. flies in an undulating fashion and generally remains on wing for considerably longer periods. The female of the danaid eggfly, Hypolimnas misippus; the Leopard Lacewing, Cethosia cyane and the Indian Fritillary, Argyreus hyperbius hybrida mimic this butterfly.
  • Distribution: Clearings and edges in open forests, scrubs and savannhas, neglected corners and gardens in human habitations and riversides are the best places to look for this butterfly. This butterfly though breeds throughout the year it is most commonly seen during the monsoons or just after it but persists even in summers. 
  • Habits: The plain Tiger is protected against attacks from avian and reptilian predators by virtue of the unpalatable alkaloids it ingests during it's larval stage. it's bright colors advertise it's unplaltability. It's flight is slow and laborious. This gives it's predators sufficient time to recognize it. It flies straight and close to the ground with few vertical deviations. When at rest, the wings are closed over the black. However, the newly - emerged specimen, still too wet and soft to fly, flaps them slowly to reveal the brighter colors on the upperside.  While basking, it rests close to the ground, on small bushes, etc. and spreads it's wings with it's back towards the sun, so that the wings are completely exposed to the sun's rays.
  • Reproduction: The male courts the female by hovering over it with light wing-beats. To lay eggs, the female perches at the edge of a leaf, curls it's abdomen to reach the lower surface and lays a single egg at a time. The female may lay well over half-a-dozen eggs on the same plan, especially on a large bush of Calotropis, but never more then one on a leaf. The egg is silvery-white and shiny. It is tall with an apical point and ribbed sides. After the caterpillar hatches, it's first meal is of the eggshell itself. The caterpillar is cylindrical and of almost uniform width from the head to the abdominal tip. it's most striking characteristics are a banded body and three pairs of long and black tentacles. Initially the caterpillar is yellowish with black bands on it, but later it turns a dark chocolate-brown or black with alternate, narrow whitish and yellowish bands and a series of dorsolateral, rather longish yellow spots.
  • Larval Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on "milkweed" plants. these, in our region, include a large bush - Calotropis ( Sanskrit - Arka, Marathi & Hindi - Arka), Asclepias Curassavica ( Sanskrit - Kakatundi)