Belenois aurota taprobana, Moore

Home | Ecological zones | Butterflies | Larval food plants | Nectar food plants | Dragonflies | Moths | Other insects | Links | Sightings | Glossary

Female Pioneer

Male Pioneer on Tridax procumbens

Female Pioneer on Tridax procumbens

A medium sized black, yellow and white butterfly with a wingspan of 40-50 mm. A very variable insect with many intergrades between the wet and dry season forms. The sexes look similar in flight. Upper side forewing: The ground color is white to creamy white, and in the females, there is a uniform dusting of black scales. The black termenal bands are wider in the female. Both sexes have a black band that partly surrounds the forewing cell dorsally, but it is always wider and more pronounced in the female. 
Under side forewing: The ground color of the male varies little, being yellow in any season. In the female, it is often a rich chrome yellow, sometimes almost orange in individuals from the wet season. The black termenal band is wide. The prominent black lines on the veins connect with each other to form a reticulate pattern. The size and number of  yellow spots in the termenal band are very variable.

Similar species
Common Gull  Underside yellow without a black marginal band on the hind wing. The upper side has more extensive black markings along the veins.

Status, distribution and habitat
It is a common butterfly of the arid, dry and intermediate zones of the island and is found all year round but is most abundant during the north-east monsoon. It loves scrub jungle and open spaces with lots of bright sunshine.

It flies fast and low to the ground, except in mass migration, when ribbons of thousands of them may be seen sailing across the sky, anywhere from 5 to 20 feet above ground. They frequently settle on wayside wild flowers, and in migration, they may settle by the hundreds on Lantana or Tridax flowers - a feast for one's eyes. Unfortunately, during migration, they also die by the hundreds along the roads, hit by passing traffic.

Road kills - a 50 M strip of this road had over 50 dead

Early stages

Pioneer oviposting on a non-larval host                   Eggs on Salvadore persica

The pioneer lays its eggs on on the underside of leaves in batches of up to 100 or more. During mass migrations, the females sometimes lay their eggs indiscriminately on non-larval host plants as shown in the image here. Unfortunately, it was not possible to record whether the larvae that hatched from these eggs were able to migrate to their host plants, which were in the vicinity.

The larvae are green on emergence but develop distinctive lateral bands on subsequent instars. They stay together until pupation and form large colonies, often defoliating entire plants giving them a characteristic skeletonized look. Parasitic infestations in these large congregations are not uncommon and keep the populations in check.

Last instar larva of the Pioneer on Capparis sepiaria

Larval host plants: Members of the Capparidaceae. The most frequently used food plant is Capparis sepiaria.

Previous  |  Next

Danaidae | Satyridae | Amathusiidae | Nymphalidae | Acraeidea | Libytheidae | Riodinidae | Lycaenidae | Pieridae | Papilionidae | Hesperidae