Red Helen Butterfly (Papilio helenus) - Wiki
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[Photo] Red Helen, Papilio helenus butterfly photograph taken by L. Shyamal at Wynaad, India, November 2005
The Red Helen Papilio helenus is a large swallowtail butterfly found in forests in southern India and parts of Southeast Asia.
A large black prominently tailed butterfly. It has a wingspan of 100 to 120 mm.
It has a prominent large yellow discal patch on its upper hindwings, which is characteristic of the species.
On the under hindwing it has a row of red submarginal lunules.
Sri Lanka, southern and North-East India,Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Vietnam, southern China (including Hainan, Guangdong province), southern Japan, South Korea, Ry??ky?? Islands. Peninsular and Eastern Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bangka, Kalimantan and the]]Lesser Sunda Islands]] except Tanimbar). In India, along the Western Ghats] from Kerala to Gujarat, also Palnis and Shevaroys. In the north from Mussoorie eastwards, to North-East India and onto Myanmar.
Common and not threatened. Common from Kerala to Maharashtra, rare in Gujarat.
Up to thirteen different subspecies of which two occur in India :-
P. helenus daksha Moore. South India. Not Rare.
P. helenus helenus Linnaeus. Mussoorie to Myanmar. Common
The Red Helen is common in evergreen forests and tracts having heavy rainfall. Also visits gardens in urban areas. Found throughout the year in South India where it flies between 1000 and 7000 feet. In the North it flies up to 5000 feet only.
A very striking butterfly which immediately draws attention by the large white patch on the upper hindwing. When it rests, it draws back the forewings to hide this spot and becomes quite inconspicuous when this spot gets hidden.
A powerful flier with a rapid but irregular path. It usually flies low. It often leaves the jungle to fly along valleys and across tea gardens. It is a frequent visitor to gardens and can be caught easily while hovering a flower or sipping from a damp spot.
Flies throughout the year in South India.
The egg is pale apricot yellow in colour when freshly deposited, spherical in shape and has a slightly roughened exterior which looks like the skin of an orange when seen through a microscope. The diameter of an egg is 1.2 mm.
The eggs are deposited singly on the tips of very young leaves and shoots in shady parts of thick jungle. Before hatching, the eggs appear to be marked by chocolate coloured lines and flecks. The egg hatches in 4-7 days.
The freshly emerged larva is about 3 mm long with two yellow osmeteria (horn like processes) covered with setae on the first segment, a similar pair on the last segment and a nearly white smaller pair on the segment before the last. Each of the other segments bears, on the back, a pair of tufts of stiff hairs, each tuft arising from a small, yellowish conical process. The overall colour is brown, but there is a whitish saddle-like patch about the middle and the tail segments are also whitish in colour.
As with other Papilios there is a branched horn on the osmeterium which the larva extrudes when irritated. This secretes an unpleasant smelling liquid which is believed to repel predators and parasites.
After the first moult the caterpillar has the appearance of a shiny bird dropping. The larva is grass green in colour, mottled black and white and smoky grey. The osmeterium is flesh-coloured.
The young larva lies along the midrib of the leaf. Later on, when full-grown, he lies on the centre of the upperside of the leaf, on a stem or a twig. The fifth instar larva is about 5 cm long.
Pupa is usually green with a yellow saddle. Like many other papilionids, if it is formed in laboratory surroundings, against bark or brown surroundings, it develops variegations of brown, pink, black and grey and has no yellow saddle. Pupation takes place after the larval duration of 26-30 days. The total period from egg to butterfly during summer is 43-53 days.
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