Thailand, Malaysia &
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - DANAINI
The subfamily Danainae, which includes the
Monarchs, Tigers, Crows and Tree Nymphs, comprises of about 190
Danaines are thought to be distasteful to birds. Their bodies
contain toxins which are derived from the lactiferous larval
foodplants, and are often supplemented by further toxins sequestered
from adult food sources.
The bright wing patterns
"advertise" these unpalatable qualities,
in much the same way that the bands of yellow and black of wasps
advertise the fact that they can sting. Consequently any bird that
suffers the highly unpleasant experience of tasting a Danaine is
unlikely to attack other similarly coloured butterflies.
Effectively, a few individuals are sacrificed for the good of the
species as a whole.
There are 12 Idea
species, of which 5 occur in West Malaysia i.e.
stolli. The other 7 species are found variously in India, Sri
Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Sumatra, Borneo,
Sulawesi, Irian and Papua New Guinea.
Tree Nymphs are
very large butterflies, characterised by having translucent white
wings patterned with black veins, and numerous oval black spots.
They are noted for their slow and very graceful flight, which gives
them the appearance of white handkerchiefs floating gently on the
occurs in West Malaysia, and possibly on Taiwan and the Philippines,
although there is some confusion among taxonomists about whether the
non-Malaysian forms are subspecies of leuconoe,
or of another species.
This is a relatively common species occurring in coastal mangrove
forest and lowland rainforest at altitudes between sea level and
Penang, West Malaysia
© Fiona Le maitre
beautiful insects, known variously as Tree Nymphs, Paper Kites, and
Rice Paper butterflies, have a very slow and extraordinarily graceful
flight. It might appear therefore that they would easily fall victim
to avian predators, but like all
Danaines Idea are poisonous or highly
unpalateable to birds and are not often attacked. The slow flight is
their way of advertising the very distinctive pattern, which birds,
through past experience, associate with a very unpleasant taste.
sunny conditions males usually rest with the wings erect or partly
open, ready to take flight to intercept potential mates. In cool or
cloudy weather they are more relaxed and can sometimes be found
feeding at flowers at the side of roads. When feeding they tend to
slowly flutter or fan their wings, but when settled on foliage they
will bask with wings fully outspread.