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Thursday, June 10, 2004


Snout butterfly

* Japanese name: Tengucho
* Scientific name: Libythea celtis
* Description: This butterfly with a wingspan of 19-29 mm is easily recognized: The upper sides of the wings are brown with large bright-orange and smaller white patches. The back edges of the forewing are deeply toothed. The Japanese name is a reference to the tengu, a legendary goblin priest from the mountains said to have an enormous red nose (it is not recorded whether the priest was a foreigner). The butterfly has unusually long sensory organs on the front of its head called palps. These segmented, leglike structures are used for tasting food.
* Where to find them:In deciduous broad-leaved forests all over Japan, at altitudes up to 1,500m. In Europe this species is called the nettle-tree butterfly, because it is often seen in nettle trees (Celtis australis). It can be seen almost year-round, basking in the sun. When startled, it flies up vertically. It has an extensive range, living in North Africa and across the Eurasian landmass from Spain to Japan
* Food:Adults eat nectar sucked in through their long tongue. The caterpillars have biting jaws and eat the leaves and buds of the nettle tree. Females lay two broods per year, and adults hibernate during winter.
* Special features: Wooden masks of the tengu goblin are still popular in Japan, and the tengucho has its own sort of mask. Although the upper sides of the wings have bright orange markings, the undersides are very different, camouflaged to look like a dead leaf. When the animal rests among dead leaves with its wings together, either perching or hibernating, it is likely to be overlooked by a foraging animal. The disguise is aided by a lobe that extends past the forewing when the insect is at rest. The lobe and the toothed edge of the wing give the animal an irregular outline.

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