Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jezebels and stinging trees

The jezebel nymph (Mynes geoffroyi) (family Nymphalidae) is around in large numbers at the moment. Although the common name sounds like overkill, it refers to the species' resemblance to the true jezebel butterflies (Delias), which belong to family Pieridae. (Yes, it's a four-winged version of the tamarind kerfuffle.)

Males of this species patrol rainforest clearings and edges, often stopping at vantage points to survey the neighbourhood. This one had a clear view of the garden.

The jezebel nymph is readily distinguished from the pierid jezebels by the flash of scarlet on the underside of the front wings. In the pierids, red is confined to the underside of the hind wings.

All caterpillars in a cohort feed together and pupate at the same time, so they emerge simultaneously. Their food plants include stinging trees (Dendrocnide) and native mulberry (Pipturus argenteus). I am more than happy for them to nibble away at the stinging trees, but I wish they'd chew faster. Here's a young one at the side of the house. It has scarcely been touched by herbivorous insects. Poor effort, I say. The arthropods need to lift their game.

If you're interested in stinging tree taxonomy — and who isn't? — this is the Wet Tropics endemic species Dendrocnide cordifolia. In this species, the petiole (leaf stem) is attached to the edge of the leaf (see below). In the more widespread Dendrocnide moroides, the petiole is attached further along the leaf. I recommend using binoculars to check out this feature and a long lens to photograph it!

Specimen data reproduced from Australia's Virtual Herbarium
with permission of the Council of Heads
of Australasian Herbaria Inc.


Denis Wilson said...

Glad you sorted out my Jezebels = Nymphs and Pierids for me.
Red bits, somewhere or other, as they flash past me.
Fortunately, (for me), I only get about 3 species of Pierid Jezebels here.
Your bluish ones are pretty.

Snail said...

This species only go as far south as the NSW border, so you won't have to worry about IDing it. It is very pretty.

I think we've got about four pierid jezebels in the general area, but I rarely get a good enough look at the underwings to make a positive ID. There's a beautiful golden one up on the Cape that I'd love to see.