Butterflies of the the
Family - PAPILIONIDAE
Tribe - TROIDINI
© Fiona Le maitre
The subfamily Papilioninae
consists of about 550 species worldwide. These are divided into 4
tribes: Leptocircini, Papilionini, Teinopalpini and Troidini. The
Troidini includes the Parides
Cattlehearts of South America, the
Ornithoptera Paradise Birdwings of Papua New Guinea, and the
Troides Birdwings of
tropical Asia, and Atrophaneura.
about 50 species in the genus Atrophaneura,
most of which are confined to the Oriental region, although some
extend their range to New Guinea which lies in the Australian
region. Some workers split Atrophaneura
into a number of smaller genera e.g.
Byasa. Consequently this species is listed as
Byasa polyeuctes in some works.
The various members
of the genus Atrophaneura are known as
Windmills, Batwings, Club-tails and Roses. They all have elongated
black forewings. In most species the hindwings have spatulate tails
and are marked with red submarginal spots and/or white patches. Most
also have red markings on the head, thorax and abdomen.
Atrophaneura are unpalateable to birds,
and are mimicked in appearance by various edible species.
Papilio polytes e.g. produces several
different female forms, including romulus
f. theseus which is a superb
mimic of Atrophaneura aristolochiae.
Insectivorous birds are unable to distinguish between mimic and
model, and having had the unpleasant experience of tasting
aristolochiae will reject the almost
identical but perfectly edible polytes. For
human observers distinguishing between the two species is easy
though because polytes has an all-black
head and body.
Atrophaneura aristolochiae is found
across tropical Asia from India and Sri Lanka to China, Taiwan and
the Philippines. It's range continues south through the Malay
peninsula to Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Bali.
Atrophaneura aristolochiae, Ultapani,
© Adrian Hoskins
This very common species can be
found in a wide variety of habitats including rainforests, beach
hinterlands, parks and gardens. In Sri Lanka it even occurs in arid
savannah / thorn scrub habitats due to the proximity of these to the
beach hinterlands where it's larval foodplants flourish.
The larval foodplants are Aristolochia
and Thottea ( Aristolochiaceae ).
Both sexes roam
widely, fluttering and gliding gracefully but quite rapidly, a metre
or so above the ground. The nectar avidly at wild and cultivated
flowers, constantly fluttering their wings to maintain their position
as they hover in front of them.