Cupha prosope (Fabricius, 1775)
Australian Rustic
(one synonym: Messaras susanna Koch, 1865)
HELICONIINAE ,   NYMPHALIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Cupha prosope

The Caterpillars of this species feed on various species from the plant family SALICACEAE, including :

  • Coffee Plum ( Flacourtia jangomas ),
  • Flintwood ( Scolopia braunii ),
  • Queensland Xylosma ( Xylosma terrae-reginae ),

    as well as

  • Willgar ( Breynia oblongifolia, PHYLLANTHACEAE ).

    The Caterpillar is greenish brown with an orange head, and a yellow stripe along each side. The body is covered sparsely in branched spines. Young caterpillars are inclined to hang on silk threads at night. This may protect them from roaming predators.

    Cupha prosope
    Empty pupal case
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The pupa is greenish mottled with silver, and has a number of spines. It hangs obliquely from a silk cremaster head downward on the foodplant.

    Cupha prosope
    (Photo: courtesy of Buck Richardson, Kuranda, Queensland)

    The wings of the adult butterflies are orange with a wide brown area by the body and an equally wide darker brown area along the margins. The wing undersides have a similar paler pattern, and additionally each wing has a subterminal arc of dark spots. The last spot at the tornus of each forewing is larger than the rest.

    Cupha prosope
    Underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The eggs are greenish yellow and spherical. They are often laid singly on plants adjacent to, but not on, the foodplant. The female butterflies have also been observed laying their eggs on spiders webs near a foodplant, or dead twigs, or on debris at the foot of a foodplant. This appears to be a response to a defence that some plants have developed against caterpillars. These plants secrete a juice in response to an egg being laid on them. The juice causes mould to grow which kills the egg.

    Cupha prosope
    Cambodia
    , 1990
    (Photo: courtesy of Poppe Stamps)

    The species is found in

  • New Guinea and adjacent islands,

    and in Australia in

  • Queensland along the north-eastern coastal strip.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 546-547.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Historiae Natvralis Favtoribvs,
    Systema Entomologiae,
    1775, pp. 504-505, No. 260.

    Peter Hendry,
    Lepidoptera legacy of the summer that was 2010/11,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 61 (June 2011), pp. 18-20,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Bob Miller,
    The Australian Rustic (Cupha prosope prosope),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Newsletter Issue 22 (September 2001).

    Garry Sankowsky,
    Unusual egg-laying strategies of some Lepidoptera,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 73 (June 2014), pp. 17-21,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    June Wimberly,
    Australian Rustic Butterfly,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 57 (June 2010), pp. 37,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.


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    (updated 18 December 2009, 3 November 2013, 27 January 2014, 4 March 2015)