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A sea slug in your vine

September 5, 2012

No, it is not a sea slug, it is the massive caterpillar of the golden birdwing butterfly (Troides aeacus, Papilionidae). In a previous blog I wrote that this huge butterfly (14 cm) does not like to lay its eggs on exotic Aristolochia. Well, the baby below is actually eating South American Aristolochia ringens (Aristolochiaceae) here at Dokmai Garden. The golden birdwing is a majestic butterfly and a pride of any healthy Thai garden, so be careful to teach your staff that this ‘worm’ will in fact become a lovely butterfly, and that fire, herbicides and pesticides will kill it.

Yesterday was the day of giants. Two Australian and two Burmese visitors were lucky to see this larva, and also the black eagle which I have not seen in months. It probably moved uphill when it got too dry in the valley. Right now there is a lot of bird and butterfly activity, and hopefully we may get another flush of mushrooms. Photo: Ricky Ward.

Another smaller larva often seen on Aristolochia is the ‘common rose’: Pachliopta aristolochiae.

Since the butterfly rarely sits still it is difficult for me to take good photos with my ancient camera. I took this picture in Yunnan, China, of a male of  ‘the common birdwing’ (Troides helena). It resembles the ‘golden birdwing’ we have at Dokmai Garden. Most welcome here to try to take a picture of the Golden Birdwing. I saw a big female two days ago in Dokmai Garden’s restaurant garden.

The flower of Aristolochia ringens is quite interesting too. This picture was taken in March.

Eric Danell

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