Common Rose
Pachliopta aristolochiae ceylonica, Moore

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Male Common Rose

A large swallowtail butterfly. Wingspan of  80-95 mm. The male is smaller and has narrower wings and reduced white markings on the forewing. The upperside and underside of both sexes are black. There is a well defined white patch in the center of the hind wing and a series of lunular spots below. The lunular spots are much brighter on the lower side and are of a different hue than those on the upperside.

Similar species
Ceylon Rose - A much larger, rarer species confined to the wet zone forest. It has wider white markings on the forewings.

Status, distribution and habitat
A very common butterfly widely distributed throughout the island. Large populations are more commonly seen at the lower elevations. It is an excellent generalist that has adapted well to many different habitats - it is found everywhere.

It flies high but almost always descends to nectar on flowers below. On such occasions it often dives down with its wings held back, and as it approaches the flower, the wings open up to provide deceleration. At other times, it moves forward aided mostly by the flapping of its forewings. The hind wings provide some buoyancy and balance, but do not contribute much to its forward propulsion. This flying technique gives a rather unusual look to its flight. An observer is left with the impression that it is dragging itself through the air with only the assistance of its forewings. Despite this peculiar slow flight, it is rarely attacked by predators, being well protected by the poisons it has sequestered from its larval food plant. It also emits a nasty smelling substance when handled to further enhance its unappealing qualities.

It is up and about much earlier in the mornings than most butterflies and is active throughout the day until dusk. However, it is less abundant around noon or early afternoon the dry zone since it retires into the thickets to avoid the mid-day heat. Here, it will rest and wait until late afternoon to fly once again. It flies just as readily in the shade as in the sun, and frequently visits the flowers of undergrowth plants such as Jatropa cuarcus and Clerodendron paniculata. It the evenings, it retires into wooded areas or thickets in search of dead twigs or small branches on which to roost. Sites that are 10 to 15 feet above ground, below the canopy of trees with sufficient cover from the elements, seem ideal. It frequently roosts  in the company of others of its type, and sometimes in the company of the Crimson Rose. 

The male is attracted to wet soil in the Uva province but it seems never to mud-sip in the north western province.

Common Rose males mud-sipping in the Uva province.

Early stages
Larvae feed on Aristolochia indica, a common medicinal vine of the lower elevations. The larvae are brightly coloured to warn potential predators of their unpalatability and are therefore left alone by birds and reptiles. However, the ubiquitous red ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) prey on the larvae of this species on occasion. It is a rather unpleasant scene to watch - a group of worker ants encircle the larva and hold it taut while the others break away pieces of the body and carry them away.

Larva and Pupa of Common Rose

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