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Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery

Great Orange Tip Butterfly

Aptly named, the great orange tip butterfly bears bright white wings that are marked with an orange area along the upper edge of the forewings. Specimens are captured for collectors in the wilds of Asia, but are also reared in captivity. The relatively common butterflies, scientifically referred to as Hebomoia glaucippe, are often released at weddings and used for live displays.

The largest of the lepidopteran family Pieridae found in Asia, the great orange tip butterfly is represented by 27 subspecies. The females are darker than the male butterflies and feature additional black wing markings. In stark contrast to the bright upper surfaces, the undersides of the wings and body of the great orange tip adult closely mimic the appearance of a leaf. Depending on the subspecies, the butterfly may appear either a dried brown or a live green marked with a highly detailed midrib and branching vein design. When at rest, the great orange tip butterfly holds its wings still in the upright position and remains well hidden from predators in the Asiatic forests.

One of the speediest butterflies, the great orange tip tends to fly in the morning and prefers the fringes of forests, rather than their centers. The lepidopterans also frequent wetlands, the males congregating during the heat of the day on the moist ground to gather salts and other nutrients essential for successful reproduction. Females, on the other hand, seldom leave the cover of the tropical forest. Despite their great numbers, adult members of the species are very hard to catch because they are such powerful fliers.

In the larval stage, great orange tip butterflies are not especially large or speedy. The caterpillars tend to move slowly, methodically feeding upon the leaves of Capparidaceae plants, including the garlic pear. The newly hatched larvae are a khaki green color and are covered with numerous long, stiff, white or clear spine-like bristles. Caterpillars in the later stages lose their body bristles, transform into a blue-green color, and feature a pair of thoracic red and blue false eyespots, which help them to deceive potential predators. When startled, a great orange tip caterpillar swells its thorax and thrashes around in a defensive behavior that makes it appear much larger than it really is.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Shannon H. Neaves, Laurence D. Zuckerman, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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