Yes, there are tigers in Australia

… and I don’t just mean the late lamented extinct Tasmanian tigers.

Butterflies of the subfamily Danainae are commonly called ‘crows’ or ‘tigers’, but I really don’t know why. Our neighbours have peacocks, but I haven’t noticed these butterflies stalking them. 🙂 Maybe the drop bears (Thylarctos plummetus) do that. I’ve been hearing them snorting every night – oh, wait, that is our local male koala (which, like the panda, is decidedly not a bear).

I found this blue tiger (Tirumala hamata) dead on the ground. It’s about the only time to get a good look at these normally fast-flitting flyers.

Brown tiger, Tirumala hamata

Blue tiger, Tirumala hamata

Underside

Underside

Adult butterflies live one to two months in summer (more if they’ve overwintered). This group eats the milky sap of some plants containing poisonous compounds such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These are used in the synthesis of male courtship pherones. They make the butterfly taste bitter, so providing a defence against birds.

Hmm, if birds did eat them, would that be a case of birds attacking and eating tigers? I know Australia has some odd animal relationships, but really … !

Update: They love the flowers of Buckinhamia celsissima, a native of the wet tropics of Far North Queensland, but used as a garden tree in suitable parts of Australia.

Tirumala hamata on Buckinghamia celsissima; photo by Sherrie Ford

Tirumala hamata on Buckinghamia celsissima flowers; photo by Sherrie Ford

Thanks to Sherrie for the photo!

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