Red Pierrot Butterfly - Life Cycle

Updated: Aug 24

The first thing you notice when you see a Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus) butterfly, is its wonderful colouration. With its Orange-white wings adorned with black spots, this low-flying butterfly is eye candy for sure. The Red Pierrot is a member of the Polyommatini (Blues) tribe of the Lycaenidae family (Gossamer-winged butterflies), the second-largest family of butterflies.

Red Pierrot butterfly Life cycle
Life stages of the Red Pierrot butterfly

Classification:

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Family: Lycaenidae

Genus: Talicada

Species: T. nyseus

Binomial name: Talicada nyseus (Guerin, 1843)


Subspecies in India

  1. Talicada nyseus nyseus (Guérin-Méneville, 1843) – Indian Red Pierrot

  2. Talicada nyseus khasiana Swinhoe, 1893 – Khasi Red Pierrot

Habit:

The butterfly is a low-flier and often takes short flights along the ground, perching often on branches or grass. Unlike most butterflies which flutter around large-bright flowers for nectar, the Red Pierrot is a shy garden dweller. It prefers grass lawns covered with wildflowers such as false daisies and spends most of its time near its host plant Kalanchoe (previously known as Bryophyllum). The upper side of the forewings is jet black and similarly, black hindwings have orange-yellow ovals which cover the lower half with borders decorated with white spots.

Red pierrot in flight


Host plants:

Bryophyllum is a group of plants from the family Crassulaceae native to Madagascar. It is a section or subgenus within the genus Kalanchoe and was formerly placed at the genus level. The plant Kalanchoe pinnata is also called as "Miracle plant or Leaf of life" due to its peculiar ability to grow small plants from leaves.

Life cycle:


Eggs:

The eggs are laid by a female on the underside of a leaf, one egg at a time. They are light green in colour ellipsoidal typical of the Lycaenidae family. The hatching time for eggs is 3-4 days.

Larva:

The larval stage is divided into 5 stages (Instars) extending from 2-2.5 weeks. Initial larvae are about 2 mm in size and green coloured. As they mature the colours turn yellowish and the head becomes distinguishable. Larvae usually feed on the inside of the leaves, mining their way between the upper and lower layers of the leaf.

Feeding caterpillar of Red pierrot butterfly


Deposits of frass and larvae feeding inside translucent leaves can be easily seen during development. When one leaf is finished they come out and start mining on a fresh leaf. In the later stages, the larval body becomes segmented and sideward black dots on the segments develop. In its final pre-pupation stage, the larva comes out of hiding (now appearing cream-coloured and stocky) and settles in open for pupation. The pupation takes one-two days to complete and the resulting pupa is yellow coloured with head and body compartments partially visible.

Pupa and eclosion:

The initial pupa is yellowish and slowly starts to turn dark near the wings as it matures. The pupal stage lasted 7-9 days. On the morning of eclosion, the pupa turns completely black and the butterfly emerges. The upperside black wings can be seen in this phase, it soon climbs for support and settles for an hour before taking flight.


Field Notes:

The Red Pierrots are most active from January to April and for a while around August. This is also the best time when they can be seen nectaring, mating and laying eggs in the early morning sun.


References:

  1. Talicada nyseus https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talicada_nyseus

  2. Talicada nyseus, The Red Pierrot butterfly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talicada_nyseus

  3. Red Pierrot https://www.dilmahconservation.org/butterfly-garden/sri-lanka-butterfly/red-pierrot--52f61b2fd1e37e75f81eff5b0251a6d6.html

  4. Venkata Ramana, Dr. S.P. (2018). Autecology of the Red pierrot butterfly Talicada nyseus (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera: Lycaenidae) from the Lankamala forest -Andhra Pradesh.

  5. Talicada Moore, [1881] http://www.nic.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/insecta/lepidoptera/ditrysia/papilionoidea/lycaenidae/polyommatinae/talicada/

  6. Nitin, R., Balakrishnan, V.C., Churi, P.V., Kalesh, S., Prakash, S. and Kunte, K. 2018. Larval host plants of the butterflies of the Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa. 10, 4 (Apr. 2018), 11495–11550.


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