(formerly known as Polyura sempronius)
CHARAXINAE, NYMPHALIDAE, PAPILIONOIDEA
(Photo: courtesy of Sharron Marks)
These Caterpillars are initially yellow with a black head. They change to green in later instars, with a number of yellow crescents distributed along the body, one each on the third and fifth segments, and sometimes on other segments as well.
The head is frightening, like a large green shield four horns on it, and smaller projections between them. In fact the animal is quite harmless.
The caterpillar weaves a loose white cocoon on the leaves on which it is feeding, which is useful for spotting places to search for it. We have found it on various species of Wattle ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ) such as:
as well as other plants such as:
The caterpillars also commonly feed on :
in CAESALPINIACEAE, which are deciduous and causes fatalities to when the leaves fall with the pupa attached.
The caterpillar grows to a length of about 8 cms. It pupates dangling by its cremaster from the stem of its food plant, or an adjacent bush.
The pupa is green with white bands where the wings develop, and also has a pair of white dorsal lines on the abdomen.
The adult butterflies have a wing span up to 11 cms. The wings are predominantly cream and black above. The hind wings are extended into two narrow pointed tails on each side. There is an orange patch to the inside of these on each upper surface.
Underneath, the wings are predominatly cream and brown, with orange and rusty brown markings.
The adult butterflies are attracted to fermenting juice such as rotting fruit or sap. When they feed on this, they often become intoxicated and easy to capture.
The eggs are initially pale green and spherical with a flat top, and a diameter of about 2 mm. They become yellow and develop dark markings as hatching approaches. They are laid singly on a foodplant.
The species seems to prefer a tropical or subtropical climate, but sometimes is found further south, so has been found in:
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. 527-529.
Johan Christian Fabricius,
Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta,
Volume 3, Part 1 (1793), p. 62, No. 194.
Life history notes on the Tailed Emperor Charaxes sempronius (Fabricius, 1793) Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae,
Issue 96 (March 2020), pp. 13-18,
Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.
Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, p. 44.
(updated 3 January 2010, 7 December 2022)