Butterfly of the Month - July 2023
The Leafwing (Doleschallia bisaltide) is an intriguing butterfly. The male’s wingspan reaches 62min while the female’s expands to 65mm.The butterfly can’t be mistaken for any other because of its clear pattern and colours of the upper wing side with a strong orange colour on the forewing turning gradually into a rusty orange and the colour transferring to the hindwing. The outer forewing areas are black surrounding few small white spots just below the apex. The hindwings rusty orange turns into a rusty brown and darker towards the outer margin. The hindwings feature a small tail of a blunt shape.
The butterfly’s underside varies in colour and ranges from the before mentioned rusty orange and brown tones to an almost greyish or even purplish appearance. On occasion, the males feature white spots integrated into the wing pattern. Male and female show sometimes difficult to recognise eye spots on the outer halves of their wings. It is the underside of the Leafwing which allows the Leafwing to blend in as it resembles the fallen leaves on the ground.
The butterfly starts its life cycle as a globular cream to faint yellow egg, adorned with very fine ribs. Eggs are laid singly or in small groups, freely arranged either on or near the flower buds of the host plant or, alternatively’ on young leaves. The larval body is black, adorned with cream markings and blue and red coloured spots along the length of its body as well as branched spines. The attractive pupa reaches 25mm in length and ranges from a pale grey-brown to orange brown in colour and carries very fine black lines as edge markings and minute black dots. The head part is marked with two pointed projections. The pupa is placed a small distance away from the larval host plant.
In Brisbane the butterfly is found in rainforest and littoral rainforest settings where its common native larval host plant Love Flower (Pseuderanthemum variabile) is abundant. While the Leafwing also feeds on a variety of exotic plants including the only too common Ruellia sp along our creek lines, Pseuderanthemum variabile is the rehabilitators and gardeners best bet to attract the butterfly. It’s a plant easily grown and propagated, and forms a very effective herbaceous groundcover.
Images: CM - Cliff Meyer; PC - Peter Chew, Brisbane Insects; RM - Robert (Bob) Miller (Bob's Butterflies); SA - Sylvia Alexander