Acraea terpsicore (Linnaeus, 1758)
Tawny Coster
(one possible synonym is Acraea violae Fabricius, 1775)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Acraea terpsicore
(Photo: courtesy of Robert Whyte, Bush Blitz)

These Caterpillars have been found feeding on various plants, including :

  • Gourds ( Trichosanthes species, CUCURBITACEAE ),
  • Lamtoro ( Leucaena leucocephala, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Stinking Passionflower ( Passiflora foetida, PASSIFLORACEAE ), and
  • Spade Flower ( Hybanthus enneaspermus, VIOLACEAE ).

    The caterpillars are brown, with branched black spines arising from rows of black spots along the body. The caterpillars grow to a length of about 3 cms.

    The pupa is cream, with striking black markings, and rows of black outlined orange spots along the abdomen. It has two blunt horns on its head. It hangs head downward by a silk cremaster from the foodplant. It has a length of about 2 cms.

    Acraea terpsicore
    (Photo: courtesy of Tony Ashton, Townsville, Queensland)

    The wings of the adult butterflies are orange, with black spots. The hindwings additionally have a black border containing white spots. The undersides are similar to the upper surfaces.

    Acraea terpsicore
    underside, male, caught by a Sundew plant (DROSERACEAE)
    (Photo: courtesy of Alexis & Geoff Ward, near Mt Garnet, Queensland)

    The thorax is black with white spots. The butterflies have only four developed legs. The males are more deeply coloured than the females. The butterflies have a wingspan of about 5 cms.

    Acraea terpsicore
    underside, female, laying eggs
    (Photo: courtesy of Cheryl-Ann Murkin, Kelso Country Estate, Townsville, Queensland)

    The eggs are pale yellow ribbed spheroids, and are laid in groups of 30-100 on the underside of a leaf of a foodplant.

    Acraea terpsicore
    (Photo: courtesy of Cheryl-Ann Murkin, Kelso Country Estate, Townsville, Queensland)

    Initially the species was found only in

  • India, and
  • Sri Lanka.

    Recently the species appears to be following the south-eastward expansion of its foodplants. It has been estimated that it was moving about 200 Km per year across south-east Asia, successively into

  • Thailand (1984),
  • Malaysia (1992),
  • Singapore (2006), and
  • Java (2011).

    In 2012 it was found breeding in Australia, in:

  • north of Western Australia,
    and now is also found in
  • Northern Territory, and
  • Queensland.

    The butterfly is becoming famous for its mass migrations. Many hundreds were observed passing through the Rural-Residential area Kelso Country Estate, Townsville, Queensland heading south-east in the week 30 March to 5 April 2017.

    Acraea terpsicore
    (Photo: courtesy of Mike Reid, Lake Eacham, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Kelvyn Dunn and Ed Petrie,
    Arrival of the Tawny Coster butterfly in the Bowen region, Queensland,
    Victorian Entomologist,
    Volume 47, Part 5 (2017), pp. 109-112.

    Ross Kendall,
    A new immigrant butterfly for Australia,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 70 (September 2013), pp. 1, 4-6.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 466, No. 45.

    D.C. Franklin, S.C. Morrison, and G. Wilson,
    A colourful new Australian reaches Talaroo: The Tawny Coster, Acraea terpsicore,
    North Queensland Naturalist,
    Volume 47 (2017), pp. 10-13.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (written 20 December 2013, updated 15 August 2017, 28 May 2019, 4 September 2020)