Wanderer Butterfly - Danaus plexippus plexippus
This page contains pictures and information about Wanderer Butterflies in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
Wanderer Butterfly Reproduction
Rearing Wanderer Caterpillars
Although the adults and caterpillars are poisonous to birds, Wanderer are not free of predators. We found that not all of the pupas will become butterflies. We had collected four large caterpillars (over 20mm) and three small one. Only one of the four large caterpillar turned into a butterfly. For the other three, after they had turned into pupas, they became black in colour. Two or three days later, we saw a white larvae, about 5mm in length, came out from the dead pupas. Those three pupas never turned into a butterfly. From the books, the dead pupas could be parasited by wasps or flies.
For the three smaller caterpillars we collected, all turned to butterflies. I guess this is because we collected them before they were found by the wasps or flies.
Besides being parasited, the Wanderer caterpillar are subjected to predation by other insects, such as the predatory Glossy Shield Bug shown in the above picture.
The Wanderer belongs to the NYMPHALIDAE butterfly family. Like all other NYMPHALIDAE, the Wanderer uses only four legs. The first pair of legs are almost invisible. See our Discussions on why NYMPHALIDAE uses only four leg.
There are a lot of Wanderers flying around the Brisbane bushlands. Wherever there is Milkweed plants, their caterpillar’s host plant, there will be a lot of Wanderer flying around. The Wanderer caterpillar will not eat other plants. Why they rely on a few types of host plants please see our Discussions
There are two closely related species of milkweed plants found in Brisbane. One species has the white flowers and the other has red and orange flowers. The name milkweed reference to their milky sap which is toxic and taste terrible to birds and mammals. The Wanderer Butterfly caterpillars can cope with the toxins and stores them in their body. The bird or mammal which eat the caterpillar or butterfly become poisoned. This may not kill the bird or mammal but this bad experience is strong enough to make them avoid the Wanderer for their whole life.
The Milkweed plants are about one meter high and with white or red and yellow flowers. The plants will produce milk-white liquid if scratched. The Milkweed plants are sometimes called Swan Plant because the seed pod floats on water like a swan if it is cut off. The plant are also known as Balloon Cotton, Silkpods or Cotton Bush.
The first picture show a female Wanderer laying eggs on the plant. The second picture show a male Wanderer feeding on the flower, where he may waiting for a female appear as well.
Summary of Wanderer Butterfly's life cycle.
The diagram shows the summary of Wanderer Butterfly's life cycle, that is typical for insects with complete metamorphosis.
Gradual metamorphosis, also know in-complete metamorphosis. Cockroaches, grasshoppers and bugs develop with in-complete life cycle. Their young, usually called nymphs, look similar to the adults but with no wings. They share the same habitat, the same food and same lifestyle. Their wings develop externally. So we can see their wing buds and it increase in size after every moults. Details of in- complete metamorphosis of this bug are shown below.
Abrupt metamorphosis, also know as complete metamorphosis. Beetles, flies. butterflies, moths and wasps develop with complete life cycle. Their young look very different from the adults. When they just come out form eggs, they may called maggot, caterpillars, grubs or commonly called larva. Their life style is very different from their adults. Just before they become an adult, they will enter a stationary state. Then their body is completely transformed into a different shape. Their wings develop internally. Their different stages target at different function. The larva stage is mainly focus on eating and growing. The pupa stage is for transformation and the adult aims at reproduction. For details of insects complete life cycle please find at my other pages about Tachnid fly, Wanderer Butterflies and Evening Brown Butterflies.
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