Butterfly of the Month - August 2023
The Scarlet Jezebel (Delias argenthona argenthona) is a beautiful butterfly, one which can be seen flying all year round. It belongs to the family Pieridae (generally grouped as Whites and Yellows).
The wingspan reaches 61mm for the female and 62mm for the male. Like other Jezebel butterflies it impresses by its colours.
The upper wing side is predominantly white (or cream coloured in the female). The forewing shows is black along the leading upper edge (costa), the wing tips (apex) and the outer margins (termen) with white elongate markings below the apex. The hindwing, while predominantly white with mostly yellow infused at the wing base, has a black outer margin adorned with white dots.
The underside is the show stopper with the forewing being very similar to the upper side with an additional white spot in the end cell and the yellow infusion towards the base. The inner half of the hindwing shows white with a strong and extensive yellow area directed towards the base. The black outer half presents itself with bright red markings along the outer margin and usually linked to a single red spots in the centre. All red markings are surrounded by a fine white line. Colours vary seasonally, generally exhibiting darker during the cooler period. The more rounded wings distinguish the female from the male.
Two subspecies exist in Australia with the second one found in the very northern parts of the continent.
D. argenthona argenthona starts its life in the form of a bottle shaped yellow egg. Clusters can be found on stems and leaves of the host plant. They are laid in clusters adorned with very fine longitudinal ribs. Subsequent instar star stages of the larva change and vary in colour from a strong yellow to a beige or pinkish green, to pink, or even a very dark red, the latter possibly a cold season variation (the depicted one was photographed in winter). Long white hairs arise from small white dorsal spots on the larva’s thorax. Pupation happens often in the foliage of the mistletoe host, but it may occur on the tree which hosts the mistletoe.
A large variety of mistletoes, locally especially but not only Amyema spp, serve as the larval food plants. Adult butterflies can often be seen high in the canopy where mistletoes usually grow. Nectar feeding usually occurs on surrounding plants.
Male adults are known for their hill topping behaviour. They are common but seem to occur more locally, and have a preference for coastal paperbark woodlands, wallum, and wherever mistletoes grow in i.e. suburban parks.
Keep your eyes open, Delias argenthona can be seen throughout the year and stands out this time of the year.
Images: CM – Cliff Meyer; GW – Geoff Walker; IK – Iskander Kaliananda; KJ – Ken Jones, DES – CC BY 4.0