Australian Crow or Oleander Butterfly
(one synonym : Euploea angasii Felder & Felder, 1865)
DANAINAE, NYMPHALIDAE, PAPILIONOIDEA
Stella Crossley & John Stumm
close-up of pupa
(Photo: courtesy of Andy Bowen, Noosa, Queensland)
This species is famous for its pupa. The pupa is a shiny metallic silvery gold, and is about two centimetres long. It is usually found hanging from the underside of a leaf of its food plant. The pupa in spite of its appearance is not metallic. The shining effect is the result of of being covered in a number of transparent layers of skin.
The Caterpillar has alternating bands or orange, black and white all along the body, and has eight black tentacles in pairs: two pairs on the thorax, and a pair on each of abdominal segments two and eight. When disturbed, the caterpillar raises the front of its body, and curls its head underneath.
The caterpillar is usually found on:
The caterpillars have been found for many years on the Oleander bushes along the main street of Newport in the northern suburbs of Sydney, but curiously, not on similar bushes along the adjacent side roads. It is possible that the local Council, in pruning the bushes back each year on the main road, stimulated the growth of more suitable shoots for the caterpillars to eat, than were available on the less disturbed bushes in the side roads.
The caterpillar has also been found feeding on other plants in APOCYNACEAE, including:
and plants in MORACEAE including
The young caterpillars have cannibal behaviour, as they have been observed eating unhatched eggs of their own species.
At about mid-larval stage, an interesting feeding habit develops. It is well illustrated at the extreme right-hand side of the photo by Joan Tyson. Before starting to eat a new leaf, the caterpillar first chews the underside of its petiole until the leaf begins to sag. It then eats the leaf. It then repeats the procedure on subsequent leaves.
In summer in Sydney, the larval phase had lasts about 21 days. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 6 cms.
About twelve hours after pupation, the fully formed pupa is a rich creamy colour. The silver phase occurs about a day later. The pupal stage in summer in Sydney lasts about seven days. On the morning of emergence, the pupa becomes almost black with the pale legs of the adult lying bunched together on the abdomen and some white blotches on the wing outlines. After the adult emerges, it takes about eight hours to fully expand its wings.
The adult butterflies have a wing span around 7 cms. They are black with small white spots on the edges of the wings, and larger spots further in. On the hindwings, these large spots form a marginal row, and some spots are in pairs. On the forewings, the large spots vary in size, and form a less well defined row. In males, the hind margin of the forewing is bowed; in the female it is straight. The adults only have four legs.
The adult butterflies sometimes congregate in groups of thousands at various sheltered coastal valleys from Brisbane to Townsville to pass the winter in a state of hibernation. The adult butterflies have been quoted as having a lifespan of eleven to thirteen weeks.
The eggs are cream coloured and have a height of about 2 mm. They are barrel shaped with ribs. They are laid singly on the undersides of young leaves of the foodplant. One of us has a Small-leafed Moreton Bay Fig Bonzai tree and found a small white egg on one of the leaves on the 1st of January one year. It hatched about one week later. and when its length reached 8 mm it was recognizable as the larva of Euploea core.
It seems to be a species that prefers a tropical climate. It has been found in
and the northern half of Australia including
and occasionally spreads as far south as
The adult butterflies are sometimes found sucking the sap from the fruits of Rattlepods ( Crotalaria species). The butterflies are thought to absorbing poisons from the plant in order to, in turn, make themselves poisonous to eat.
The species is featured at the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. Butterflies of this species may be purchased in Australia for release at weddings etc.
For many years, Euploea corinna was though to be a subspecies of Euploea core, but Vane-Wright (1993) found stable populations of both species side-by-side on Bali and adjacent islands, proving that they were separate species.
Further reading :
Michael F. Braby,
Butterflies of Australia,
CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 605-607.
Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 14, 62.
William Sharp Macleay,
in Philip Parker King :
Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia,
Volume 2 (1826), Appendix B, p. 462, No. 150.
Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 224.
(updated 18 February 2013, 7 January 2014, 28 March 2015, 28 July 2017, 24 May 2019, 17 June 2020, 9 October 2021)