Act for Butterflies

Butterfly of the month – January 2019

Butterfly of the month – January 2019

Tamil Lacewing

Do you know about Tamil Lacewing ?

Tamil Lacewing (Cethosia nietneri), a lovely butterfly of the wet lowland forests of the Western Ghats. It is a species of nymphalid butterfly found in South India. The species is named after John Nietner who obtained specimens of the butterfly from Ceylon from which it was described in 1872.

Size: 80-95 mm. Lace-like appearance and scalloped wing margins.

Habits: It flies often straight, with slow but continuous flapping of wings and short glides. Visit flowers of forest trees high up in canopy but also comes to low bushes and herbs. Distasteful for birds due to toxins acquired by larvae from host plant and hence not attacked by birds. Pretend to be dead when attacked.

Habitat: Prefer dense evergreen forests at lower elevations (along the middle slopes of Western Ghats) with heavy rainfall (up to 1000 meters). Often seen flying in open areas bordering evergreen forests. Locally abundant in wet season.

Male: Upper side orange with black spots. Black termen bearing white crescents. UPF a broad white band across the black apex. UPH costa black to base. Underside orange or pink basal area and irregular black bars and spots. Yellowish sub marginal band and marginal crescents. UNF oblique white band.

Female:  Similar to male but darker. Black markings larger and diffuse. UNF red area replaced by dusky orange-yellow. Butterfly has a disagreeable odour.

Larva: Cylindrical, but much constricted between each pair of segments, and tapering somewhat towards the head. Six longitudinal rows of fine-pointed spines; on the head only one pair of longer blunt spines. Colour dark brown, with bright red bands encircling all the segments except the 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 8th; on the 6th and 8th the red is replaced by broader bands of lemon yellow.

Pupa: “Hanging vertically, slender, with two large foliaceous processes springing from the middle of the back, and many less prominent processes on the head, thorax and abdomen; colour purplish brown, much mottled with lighter and darker shades; six dorsal spots of bright gold … found on the wild passion-flower (Modecca palmata). The caterpillar is gregarious through life.” (Davidson and Aitken)

Life Cycle:


Images credits : Balakrishnan Valappil

Further readings:

  1. Butterflies of Tamilnadu –  P. Mohanprasath and N. Satheesh
  2. Butterflies of Tamilnadu – Isaac Kehimkar
  3. Butterflies of Western Ghats – Milind Bhakre
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