Red Pierrot
Talycada nyseus, Guerin

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The Red Pierrot, mating pair

A small beautiful butterfly with a wingspan of 28-35 mm. The sexes are very similar though the female is slightly larger and has more rounded wings. It cannot be confused with any other butterfly in the island. The forewings are uniformly black above with a broad red band along the outer margin on the hind wing. Aberrations with yellow bands instead of the regular red have been record in the island. These have been described under the a form referred to as delapoli

Similar species

Status, distribution and habitat
It is locally common all year round and is widely distributed over the island below 4000 feet. It is most likely to be encountered at the foothills where its larval food plant Kalanchoe pinnata grows in profusion amongst rocky outcrops . In such places, it forms large colonies. There is a large colony of them on the top of the 'Elephant Rock' in the city of Kurunegala. Photo of habitat

It flies weakly and slowly just a few inches above ground and frequently settles down - it rarely displays its upper side once settled. It prefers to fly in dappled shade rather than full sun or dense shade. Once settled, it rubs its wings back and forth in a manner characteristic of the Blues. It flies all day long from early morning to sun down and roosts in small colonies, hanging on to small twigs and leaves rather than sitting upright. Like many other butterflies, it is quite lethargic in the early morning hours and can be picked up easily with bare hands.

It is probably an unpalatable species since it is rarely attacked by predators. Its slow nonchalant flight and aposematic coloration add credibility to such speculation.

It is a relatively easy butterfly to attract to home gardens. All that one has to do is place some fresh leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata in a well lit location, cover it very lightly with some soil and water it lightly. With time, the leaves produce small plantlets from the leaf margins and these root easily to produce a clumps of plants. It is a very hardy plant and requires very little attention. However, it does not tolerate water logging and succumbs to root rot very quickly.

Early stages

Larva of the Red Pierrot. The upper layer of the leaf
has been removed .

The eggs are laid singly on the leaves of Kanachoe pinnata. Upon hatching, the larvae quickly bore into the leaf and commence feeding. It leaves the upper and lower layers of the leaf intact and feeds only on the tissue in between, well insulated from potential predators and parasitic wasps. The droppings it leaves behind within the leaf are quite visible through the thin transparent layer of cells left behind after its feeding. This makes it easy to locate it on the food plant. The water soaked areas of leaves are another sign of its presence.  

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