Friday, 9 October 2015

147. Papilio helenus helenus (The Red Helen)

Number: 147
Family: Papilioniidae
Sub-Family: Papilioniinae
Species: Papilio helenus helenus Linnaeus, 1758
Common name(s): The Red Helen
Photography location: Hanoi City

Large, black-bodied and tailed swallowtail with white patches extending into three cells in both the upper and underside of the hindwings with a chain of small red spots at its outer edge. The underside of the forewing is dark-brown with many white to yellow linear markings.  

Papilio helenus is found commonly throughout the year in forested habitats across Vietnam, but does not usually venture out into cultivated land and towns. This butterfly is easily distinguished from similar species in Vietnam by the row of bright red submarginal lunules on the underside of the hindwings.

Papilio helenus courtship. Sexes very similar
Female (on top) larger, more red spots at HW outer edge

The female, upperside

The female, underside

Close-up on the UnH (female)
More or less quadrate white spot in space 7, with 2 more elongate similar spots in spaces 5 and 6 that form a conspicuous upper discal white patch, the outer margin of which is zigzag. 
This white patch of 3 spots in spaces 5-7 is a characteristic feature of both sexes.

Male in flight

Same specimen

A female resting on a leaf - the white patch is hidden by the FW

Males Papilio helenus puddling with P. polytes and 2 P. nephelus chaon
Female Papilionidae do mud-puddle occasionally, especially ones that have just hatched from the pupa and want a drink of fresh water. They do not congregate with the males at urine/salts/faeces, only at plain water. Here in SE Asia it is quite a rare event to see a female Papilio at mud or sandy stream banks. On the other hand, some Pierid females are often found in some numbers mud-puddling at urine mixed in with males, especially Catopsilia pomona and Appias species

Another puddle party (water seepage on a rocky slope at a riverbank, Tam Dao, mid-June 2016) with 5 Papilio species (1 nephelus chaon, 2 helenus, 3 bianor gladiator, 4 polytes, 5 memnon) + Graphium eurypylus cheronus (6)

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