Troides richmondia (Gray, [1853])
Richmond Birdwing
(erroneously : Ornithoptera richmondii)
PAPILIONIDAE,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@yahoo.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Troides richmondia
(Photo: courtesy of Geoff Sharp, Ballina, New South Wales)

This species is named after the Richmond River in the valley of which it was commonly found, in northern New South Wales.

The Caterpillar of this species is dark brown with several rows of dark spines tipped with yellow. When disturbed, the caterpillar everts a pair of yellow or green osmeteria from behind the head.

Troides richmondia
caterpillar with osmeteria everted
(Photo: courtesy of Maria Rosenfelder, Queensland)

The caterpillar grows to a length of about 6 cms. It feeds on various plants in the family ARISTOLOCHIACEAE, including:

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

    Troides richmondia
    (Photo: courtesy of Geoff Sharp, Ballina, New South Wales)

    The pupa is naked and attached to a stem or leaf of a plant by cremaster and girdle. It is normally green with flanges on the thorax, and black spikes on the abdomen. The pupa has a length of about 4 cms.

    The adult butterflies are dimorphic.

    Troides richmondia
    male
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The males have black forewings, each with an iridescent green streak along the costa, and similar green spots around the tornus. The hindwings are an iridescent green with black spots, and have an orange patch.

    Troides richmondia
    male,underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Geoff Sharp, Ballina, New South Wales)

    Underneath, they are green with black veins, spots, and margins. They have a wingspan of about 10 cms.

    Troides richmondia
    female
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The females are less colourful but larger. They are black with cream spots and patches, and have a wingspan of about 11 cms.

    Troides richmondia
    female, underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Todd Burrows, South Stradbroke Island, Queensland)

    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.

    Troides richmondia
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Todd Burrows, South Stradbroke Island, Queensland)

    The female butterfly mistakenly is inclined to lay her eggs on or near:

  • Dutchman's Pipe ( Aristolochia elegans=littoralis, ARISTOLOCHIACEAE ),

    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 euphorion and Troides priamus and Atrophaneura polydorus . There is now an important project in the conservation of these Australian butterfly species to try to eliminate occurrences of Aristolochia elegans=littoralis in the bush along the east coast of Australia, and to encourage people to grow in their gardens Richmond Birdwing Vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) or Tagala Vine (Aristolochia acuminata=tagala) instead.

    Troides richmondia
    male, underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The butterflies were once common in

  • southern Queensland, and
  • New South Wales, in the hills inland from Byron Bay,
    but are now much less common.

    Troides richmondia
    female, underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    This species is superficially similar to the Cairns Birdwing (Troides euphorion), and the Cape York Birdwing (Troides priamus), only it is smaller. The main distinguishing feature of Triodes richmondia is the less extensive a green outline to the forewing cell of the male butterfly. Nevertheless, the status of Troides richmondia as a separate species is controversial.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 281-283.

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

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 38, 66.

    Bob Miller,
    Richmond Birdwing (Ornithoptera richmondia),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 28 (March, 2003)

    D.P.A. Sands, S.E. Scott and R. Moffatt,
    The threatened Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia [Gray]): a community conservation project,
    Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria,
    Volume 56, Number 2 (1997), pp. 449-453.


    previous
    back
    caterpillar
    Australian
    Australian Butterflies
    butterflies
    Australian
    home
    Lepidoptera
    Australian
    Australian Moths
    moths
    next
    next
    caterpillar

    (updated 24 May 2013, 21 April 2018, 14 October 2019, 6 June 2020)