Subfamily DANAINAE - Danaids, Milkweed Butterflies


Crow Caterpillar, grow up to 50mm 
Butterflies in this subfamily are fairly large in size. Most of them are marked with vary shades of brown, black and white. Some are with blue or yellow colours. The males of many have prominent sex marks at the middle of hindwings. Their flight is not rapid but rather steady. Most of them able to fly long distance and some are migration species. They do not have tails on hindwings.
Caterpillars in this subfamily feed on different kind of Milkweed plants (family Asclepiadea). The Milkweed is poisonous but the caterpillar can tolerate this poison and store in their body, so both the caterpillar and adult butterfly are poisonous and distasteful. Birds and other vertebrate predators will avoid them.
Caterpillars in this subfamily have 2 or more long dorsal filaments. They are usually banded with bright warning colour usually black, yellow and white.
Pupa are attached by tail to a small pad of silk, or cremaster, from which they hang their head downwards. The pupa body is smooth with brilliant colours. 

Common Australian Crow
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Euploea core corinna, ,wingspan 90mm
This is the most common butterfly in Brisbane. We see them everyday, everywhere and even in the city, during the summer season. We can easily see them here in winter. They are shiny black in colour with scattered white marks on their wings. Male and female look similar except male has the narrow opaque make on the forewing. Their caterpillars have black and white stripes on their bodies. The pupa is a metallic dark silver colour. More information in the Australian Crow page.
Purple Crow
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Euploea tulliolus,  wingspan 65mm
This butterfly also called Eastern Brown Crow or Dwarf Crow. This butterfly is brownish black in colour, with white spots jointed to form white bands on edges of forewings. It becomes brightly purple under sunlight. We can easily find them in Mt-Gravett bush land during summer. Please also check this page for more information.

Lesser Wanderer
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Danaus petilia (was D. chrysippus petilia), wingspan 60mm, Caterpillar length up to 50mm
This is a medium size butterfly. They are sometimes seen flying solely across the bushes on a sunny day. They look similar to Wanderer Butterfly, with orange colour wings and dark edge, but they also have larger white pattern on their forewings. Their larva are also feed on milkweeds so they are not 'tasty'. More information and pictures here.
Swamp Tiger, Black and White Tiger
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Danaus affinis, wingspan 50mm
In a cool sunny winter day, we visited Bayside Parkland in Ransome the first time. Not much insects can be found. This Swamp Tiger Butterfly is the only large insect we saw. Still very happy. Check this page for more information.
Wanderer or Monarch Butterfly
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Danaus plexippus, wingspan 90mm
The Wanderer is a large black and orange butterfly with a wingspan of 100mm. Some consider it as the most beautiful insect in the world. Notice that there is the ‘sex mark’ on the hind-wing of this male Wanderer. The female looks almost the same except there is no sex mark and the black veins are slightly broader. We have recorded the life cycle of this butterfly, details please click here.

Blue Tiger
Tirumala hamata, wingspan 75mm
Blue Tiger Butterflies are not always seen in Brisbane.  They migrate to Brisbane from North Queensland. They have pale blue patterns on black background on their wings. We took the above pictures in Macgregor Park bush in mid-summer. In Brisbane 2004 summer, the number of Blue Tiger is exceptionally high. From mid summer to late summer we can see plenty of them in the bush, flying along the highway and across our backyard. They were flying from west to the east. More pictures and information please click here.

1. Insects of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, p897.
2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p461.
3. Butterflies of Australia and New Guinea - Barrett, Charles and A. N. Burns, Melbourne, N. H. Seward, 1951, p69.

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Last updated: September 19, 2010.