The colorful life of butterfly

Watching a butterfly visit a flower is always fascinating. The color of the butterfly and the flower are always in contrast. The black-and-white Common clubtail (Pachliopta coon) visiting the white flowers of Siam weed (Chromolaena odorata), or the Tailed jay (Graphium agamemnon) visiting the Lantana flower are all illustrating the importance of patterns and colors in butterfly life. And all of them are able to absorb important information from the environment such as finding potential mate, detecting flowers with high-concentrated nectar, or finding the right leaf to lay the eggs. All of because their perception of colors and movement.

However, bright and vivid color is not always a part of butterfly life. Although most of butterflies are highly patterned and colored, there are some well-camouflaged species, particularly when wings are closed. Identification can be confusing without capturing them. I could spend hours, even days searching my butterfly book to find the right species.

Many Nymphalidae show this cryptic morphology. Some are those butterflies which possessed different color or patterns on both upper and underside of the wing with the colorful pattern on the upper side. The Blue begum (Prothoe franck) is a good example of this group, which blend well with the bark of the tree that it visited. Another group comprised of those with dull brown color in both upper and underside of the wing such as the Browns (Mycalesis spp., Orsotriaena spp.) sometimes with only the number and the size of the eye-spots distinguished the species.

Colors and patterns are the most important cue for finding butterflies. Being a butterfly watcher, I probably just like their avian predator, searching and scanning for any butterflies passing by. Some are detected easily, some are missed. In butterflies, blending with the surrounding is an adaptation strategy to avoid predator. Some would probably need it if they are weaker flier or occupy the open, understory area, or of course possess a better taste for their avian predator (but of course only the birds know this). Many of the crepuscular species from the Subfamily Morphinae (Amathusia spp., Amathuxidia spp.) just look the same as the bark of the tree. From Sumatra to Sulawesi, the Fauns (Faunis spp.) seem to merge with the forest understory and like to perch on leaf litter.

Color does play an important role in butterfly survival, to find and to avoid three important things in their life, mate, food, and predator. Whether having a dull indistinct coloration, colors and patterns lead a colorful life for butterflies.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erita on November 27, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Hi, Nurul, just to leave a mark that I was here in your site. I like your site. It’s very soothing. Hope there will be more people like you, caring, appreciating and nurturing this beautiful nature, so we don’t have to suffer the deadly pollution caused by careless and ruthless modern capitalists. Keep writing, dear. Best regards


  2. Hi Erita. Thanks for visiting and left your mark on this site. This world need more people who cares about their own environment


  3. Posted by Leamme on May 18, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Um, I’d just like to point out… Isn’t the name of the common clubtail Losaria coon, not Pachliopta coon?


  4. India has such a beautiful series of native butterflies, but none capture me more than the butterflies of the Amazon rainforest


  5. Also keep the migration of the monarchs, that’s currently endangered from losing their habitat to the parasitic like epidemic of pine bark beetles in Mexico…I proposed a solution to the problem and would love to get your opinion on it…


  6. Another wonderful post ~:)


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