Danaus chrysippus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Plain Tiger or Lesser Wanderer
(one synonym : Limnas bowringi Moore, 1883)
DANAINAE ,   NYMPHALIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Danaus chrysippus
(Photo: courtesy of Jutta Godwin, Cubberla-Witton Catchments Network, Brisbane, Queensland)

This species was probably named after the philosopher Chrysippus of ancient Greece.

Danaus chrysippus
(Photo: courtesy of Jutta Godwin, Cubberla-Witton Catchments Network, Brisbane, Queensland)

The Caterpillar of this species is banded with black and yellow, and has yellow spots all over. It also has three pairs of filaments which in later instars have red bases. It feeds on various plants that have a poisonous milky sap. The Caterpillar appears to retain the poisons in its body making it unpalatable to predators.

Danaus chrysippus
(Dried and blown specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

In Australia, its foods are all from the Milkweed family ( APOCYNACEAE ), and include :

  • Blood Flower ( Asclepias curassavica ),
  • Balloon Plant ( Asclepias physocarpa ),
  • Bush Potato ( Brachystelma glabriflorum ),
  • Common Milkweed ( Calotropis gigantea ),
  • Rubber Bush ( Calotropis procera ),
  • Mangrove Milkweed ( Cynanchum carnosum ),
  • Swan Plant ( Gomphocarpus fruticosus ),
  • Bush Banana ( Marsdenia australis ), and
  • > Milkweed Vine ( Sarcostemma esculentum ).

    The Caterpillar grows to a length of about 3 cms.

    Danaus chrysippus
    (Photo: courtesy of Martin Purvis, Ingleburn, New South Wales)

    The pupa hangs by its tail from a leaf of the foodplant, and has a length of about 1.5 cms. In life, it is greenish-brown with a golden ring around the thorax.

    Danaus chrysippus
    empty pupal skin
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The skin turns brown once the butterfly has left the pupa.

    Danaus chrysippus
    (Photo: courtesy of Martin Purvis, Ingleburn, New South Wales)

    The adult butterflies are orange with wide black borders around the wings, and a variable number of white spots in the black tips of the forewings. The head is black with white spots, and the thorax black with a white dorsal line. The abdomen is brown. The butterflies only have four legs.

    Danaus chrysippus
    Female
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The male has a more prominent black markings near the centre of each hind wing. The undersides are similar to the upper surfaces. The wingspan is about 6 cms.

    Danaus chrysippus
    Male
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The eggs are pale yellow and bullet-shaped. They are laid singly on young growth of a foodplant.

    Danaus chrysippus
    Male, underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The species occurs as various subspecies across the tropics and subtropics, including :

  • Bavaria,
  • Egypt,
  • India,
  • Malaysia.

    Danaus chrysippus
    Female, underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The sub-species petilia (Stoll, 1790) is found in

  • Solomons, and
  • New Guinea,

    and over the whole of Australia, including

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania, and
  • South Australia.

    Danaus chrysippus
    Seychelles Islands
    , 1987

    Danaus chrysippus
    Ascension Island
    , 1988

    Butterflies of this species may be purchased for release at weddings etc.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 593-594.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 471, No. 81.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 223.


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    (updated 20 January 2011, 30 November 2013, 4 March 2015)