Delias harpalyce (Donovan, 1805)
Imperial White
(one synonym : Papilio lewini Thon, 1828)
PIERINAE ,   PIERIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Delias harpalyce
(Photo: courtesy Stewart Newman)

These Caterpillars are cylindrical and black with sparse white hairs and spots. The Caterpillars feed on various species of Mistletoe ( LORANTHACEAE), including :

  • Erect Mistletoe ( Amyema congener ),
  • Box Mistletoe ( Amyema miquelii ),
  • Drooping Mistletoe ( Amyema pendula ),
  • Wire-leaved Mistletoe ( Amyema preissii ),
  • Grey Mistletoe ( Amyema quandang ), and
  • Creeping Mistletoe ( Muellerina eucalyptoides ).

    Delias harpalyce
    larval web plus winter (black) pupae
    (Photo: courtesy of Clive Oatley, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria)

    The gregarious Caterpillars spin a silken web on their foodplant. They grow to a length of 4 cms.

    Delias harpalyce
    summer (orange) pupa
    (Photo: courtesy of Stewart Newman)

    The Caterpillars pupate in a group in their web. The pupae range in colour from orange in summer to black in winter. The pupae have a small forked appendage at the head end. The orange pupae have a black dorsal line on the thorax, and a number of black spikes including one on the back of each abdominal segment.

    Delias harpalyce
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The butterflies have a wingspan of up to 7 cm. The upper surfaces of the wings are a dirty white with wide black margins. The forewing apices each contain an arc of white spots. The females are greyer than the males and have a green tinge, and the black margins are wider.

    Delias harpalyce
    underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The undersides are white, red, yellow, and black.

    Delias harpalyce
    underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Clive Oatley, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria)

    The eggs are laid in clusters of about 100 on the upper surface of a foodplant leaf. The eggs are yellow and bottle shaped with a height of about 0.1 cm.

    Delias harpalyce
    (Photo: courtesy of Clive Oatley, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria)

    The species occurs in the south-eastern quarter of continental Australia, including

  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria.

    Drawings were made of this species by Arthur Bartholomew in 1861.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 334-336.

    Michael F. Braby,
    Inland breeding records for two mistletoe butterflies (Lepidoptera) from northern Victoria,
    Australian Entomologist, Volume 32 (2005), Part 4, pp. 161-162.


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    (updated 6 June 2007, 29 October 2013, 25 January 2014)