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Friday, April 26, 2002


Indian fritillary

* Japanese name: Tsumaguro-hyomon
* Scientific name: Argyreus hyperbius
* Description: This is a common butterfly in the nymphalid family. It has an orange body and distinctively marked orange wings with black spots (hyomon means "panther pattern"). The female, but not the male, has black wingtips. The underside of the wing is bright yellow and white; the body is 27-38 mm long. Nymphalids' front legs are short and brush-like and are not used for walking. Like all butterflies, they have club-shaped antennae (see photo). The caterpillar is black with orange spots and has big tufts and black spines -- any bird that eats it will choke as the spines catch in its throat.
* Where to find them: From Honshu to Kyushu, in gardens and parks in towns, and in fields and woodland in the countryside. They can be seen from April to November, and the adults breed from late summer to autumn, sometimes having several broods a year. Females lay eggs in the ground near host plants that the larvae feed on. The eggs hatch after two or three days. Caterpillars emerging late in the year hibernate until the following spring.
* Food: The caterpillars feed on flowers such as dog violet and pansy; the adults drink nectar from flowers with their long proboscis (tongue).
* Special features: The female mimics an unpalatable species of butterfly (Anosia chyrisppus), so predators that have been sickened by eating the bad-tasting species avoid eating female Indian fritillaries, even though they might taste good. Fritillaries are strong flyers (sometimes migrating long distances), and during the breeding season, males can often be seen chasing females in an elaborate courtship dance.

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