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Butterflies of temperate Asia
White Admiral
Limenitis camilla  LINNAEUS, 1763
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - LIMENITIDINAE
Tribe - LIMENITIDINI
Limenitis camilla Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
There are about 25-30 species in the genus Limenitis. Some such as populi and camilla are widely distributed across Europe and temperate Asia. The majority however are largely restricted to China and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The White Admiral is found in Britain and central Europe, and across temperate Asia to north China, Korea and Japan.
Limenitis camilla Adrian Hoskins
Habitats
This species breeds in lowland deciduous woodlands, where the adults can be seen in sunny glades, and along narrow grassy trails. It breeds in places where the larval foodplant honeysuckle grows in dappled sunlight and hangs as thin wisps from the boughs of oak and ash. The White Admiral rarely venture away from these areas and are not normally encountered in clearings, wide sunny avenues or dry open woodland.
Lifecycle
The butterflies are normally univoltine, emerging in mid-late June. They have a lifespan of about 2 weeks. Late emerging females can still be seen until the end of July, and sometimes as late as early August. In exceptionally warm summers there may be a partial second brood in early autumn.
The egg is globular, greyish-olive, and looks like a miniature sea urchin. The surface is covered with tiny hexagonal cells, and bears many short spines. It is laid singly on wispy honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, near the edge on the upperside of the leaves. Females usually spend 2 or 3 minutes carefully inspecting the vegetation at ground level, before entering the undergrowth to oviposit. They then meticulously select leaves growing semi-concealed in bushes or on the boughs of trees, always in dappled light or semi-shade. Luxuriant growth, or plants growing in sunlight are ignored.
The caterpillars hatch after about 10 days. They give away their presence by leaving characteristic feeding marks - eating the tips of the leaves either side of the midrib but leaving the uneaten midrib protruding. The young larva disguises itself by covering it's body with pellets of frass ( droppings ), and often rests at the tip of the protruding midrib. This appears to be a defensive action which has evolved to protect it from marauding ants. Many tropical relatives in the Limenitidinae take matters a stage further by constructing "frass chains". They extend the midrib by about a centimetre, by silking together pellets of frass. The tiny larvae habitually rest at the extremity, where ants are unable or unwilling to venture, possibly deterred by toxins within the frass.
In September, when in its second instar, the larva constructs a shelter by folding a half eaten leaf, which it fastens together with strands of silk. It spends the winter months hibernating within the shelter, and awakens in the following March to resume feeding, becoming fully grown in late May.
The mature larva is a beautiful creature, bright green with short dark orange spikes along the back and longer spikes on the front segments. It rests in a characteristic posture, with the tail raised and the front segments arched, and is extremely difficult to find in the wild.
The chrysalis is equally exquisite, having a purplish abdomen, bright green wing cases, and metallic silver spots on the back. There is a flattened knob projecting from the back, and a pair of long black labial knobs projecting from the head. It hangs suspended by the tail from a honeysuckle stem, and strongly resembles a withered leaf. The pupal stage lasts for about 2 weeks.
If the weather between late May and early-mid June is warm, the larvae and pupae develop rapidly, but in cool summers the rate of development is much slower. Consequently the time during which they are vulnerable to predation and parasitism is extended, and adult butterflies become scarce.
Limenitis camilla Adrian Hoskins
Adult behaviour

The White Admiral is amongst the most graceful of butterflies in flight. Males glide high in the tree tops, then descend, flitting and gliding delicately and with great precision, in and out amongst the foliage in search of females.

Both sexes nectar at the flowers of bramble Rubus but rarely visit other flowers. They appear to obtain most of their sustenance by imbibing honey-dew from the upper surface of oak leaves high in the canopy. This sugary fluid is a by-product expelled by the oak aphid Phylloxera quercus, as it sucks protein-rich fluids from oak leaves. Vast quantities of this substance coat the uppersides of oak leaves in mid-summer. Rain washes the honey-dew off of the leaves, so after rainfall White Admirals and other honey-dew feeding butterflies tend to seek alternative forms of sustenance.

 

 

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