Troides euphorion (Gray, [1853])
Cairns Birdwing
(also known as Ornithoptera euphorion)
Don Herbison-Evans
( )
Stella Crossley

Troides euphorion
(Photo: courtesy of Jan MacDonald, Finch Hatton, Queensland)

The origin of the scientific name euphorion for this species may be associated any of a number of significant figures in Greek mythology: named Euphorion.

Troides euphorion
(Photo: courtesy of Nick Monaghan, Mossman Gorge, Queensland)

The Caterpillar is dark brown, with dorsal pairs of long fleshy spines that are orange with a black tip. The pair of spines halfway along is more strongly coloured than the others. The caterpillar feeds on various members of the ARISTOLOCHIACEAE family:

  • Indian Birthwort ( Aristolochia indica ),
  • Birthwort ( Aristolochia tagala ),
  • Mountain Aristolochia ( Pararistolochia deltantha ), and
  • Richmond Butterfly Vine ( Pararistolochia praevenosa ).

    The female butterfly is foolish, and is also inclined to lay her eggs on:

  • Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia elegans ),

    but the caterpillars feeding on this vine die at around the second instar, because it is poisonous to them, as it is to caterpillars of Troides richmondia and Cressida cressida. It is now an important project in the conservation of these Australian butterfly species to try to eliminate occurrences of Aristolochia elegans in the bush along the east coast of Australia, and to encourage people to grow in their gardens: Pararistolochia praevenosa and Aristolochia tagala

    Troides euphorion
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The caterpillar pupates most often after travelling upward to the nearest different tree branch, and getting under a leaf. The pupa of the male is yellow-green, and that of the female is bronze.

    Troides euphorion
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The adult males and females are different. The wings of the female are black and white, with yellow spots along the margin of each hindwing. The body is yellow, with red under the thorax. The females are larger than the males, and have a wingspan up to 20 cms.

    Troides euphorion
    (Photo: courtesy Brett Howton, Narangba, Queensland)

    The wings of the males are green and black, with yellow spots around the margin of each hindwing. The body is yellow on top, and red under the thorax.

    Troides euphorion
    female underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of
    the Butterfly House,
    Coffs Harbour))
    Troides euphorion
    male underside
    (Photo: courtesy of
    Nick Monaghan,
    Cairns, Queensland)

    The undersides of forewings of the males are like the upper surfaces, but the undersides of the hindwings are yellow rather than green. The undersides of the females are similar to the upper surfaces.

    Troides euphorion
    mating pair: female above, male hanging by the tail
    (Photo: courtesy of Donald Simpson, Magnetic Island, Queensland)

    The species occurs in

  • north Queensland, between Cooktown and Mackay.

    The eggs of this species are cream and spherical, and are often laid singly on plants adjacent to, but not on, the foodplant. This appears to be a response to a defence that the ARISTOLOCHIACEAE 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.

    The status of I>Troides euphorion as a species, as distinct from being a subspecies of Troides priamus, is controversial, but here we follow Nielsen, Edwards, and Rangsi in treating it as a separate species.

    Troides euphorion      Troides euphorion
    (Pictures: courtesy of Kraft and Instant Scratch Its)

    This species is featured at Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. Butterflies of this species may be purchased for release at weddings etc.

    ( Australia Post, 1981)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 284-286.

    George Robert Gray,
    Lepidopterous Insects : Papilionidae,
    Catalogue of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 1, Volume 4 (1853), p. 4, No. 6, and also Plate 2, Figure 3.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 25 April 2011, 21 October 2013, 6 April 2014, 3 August 2017, 2 November 2018)