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  1. 206 Photo by Geoff Walker
  2. 206_0 Photo by Geoff Walker
  3. 206_1 Photo by Geoff Walker
  4. 206_2
  5. Lesser-wanderer-caterpillar-jean_and_fred_hort Caterpillar (up to 50 mm) by Jean and Fred Hort

Lesser Wanderer

Danaus chrysippus

Appearance

  • Colour: predominantly pale tawny-orange with a heavy black border that encloses large white spots in the forewing.  The inner leading edge of the forewing is deep red-brown.  The underside is similar to the upper side but paler with narrower black margins.  Males have a distinct patch of dark grey sex-scales on the upper side of the hind wing.
  • Size: its wingspan is about 7 - 8 cm.

Behaviour

  • Larval food plants: these include native milkweeds (Cynanchum species and Marsdenia species) as well as introduced milkweeds such as swan plant (Gomphocarpus fruiticose) and red cotton bush (G. curassavica). 
  • Movement: it usually flies slowly from 1 to 2 m above the ground.
  • Breeding: the caterpillars have 3 pairs of tentacles and yellow, white and black rings.

What to Observe

  • Presence (to establish the first and last sighting for the season)
  • Courting/mating
  • Egg laying
  • Chrysalis (butterfly emerging from its shell)

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect butterflies to appear earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

  • Spring and summer, in semi-arid parts of Australia.
  • It may be seen at other times of the year after heavy rain.

Where To Look

  • Primarily in the tropics and arid interior.  Sometimes it expands its range to the temperate south coast.
  • Periods of larger than normal rainfall in the Pilbara have lead to abundant populations being sighted in the mid-west of Australia.
  • The adult butterflies are well known migrants and may be encountered anywhere.  They readily visit flowering shrubs in suburban gardens.

Lesser Wanderer distribution map - GBIF

Lesser Wanderer distribution map - GBIF

Where To Look

Maps of Habitat Suitability

Danaus_chrysippus-lesser_wanderer

Current probability
of occurrence
2070 probability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
Species range change from
current to 2070 probability

Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).

The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.

The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.

Sightings

References

Williams A, Powell R, Williams M, Walker G 2009. Common Butterflies of the South-West. DEC Kensington. Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia, Bush Books.

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  1. What Else?

    They look similar to the Wanderer Butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), with orange coloured wings and dark edges, but they also have a larger white pattern on their forewings.