LEARNING ABOUT BUTTERFLIES
Species D. Iulia
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Dryas iulia, commonly called the Julia butterfly, Julia heliconian, the flame, or flambeau, is a species of brush-footed (or nymphalid) butterfly. The sole representative of its genus Dryas, it is native from Brazil to southern Texas and Florida, and in summer can sometimes be found as far north as eastern Nebraska. Over 15 subspecies have been described.
Its wingspan ranges from 82 to 92 mm, and it is colored orange (brighter in male specimens) with black markings; this species is somewhat unpalatable to birds and belongs to the "orange" Mullerian mimicry complex.
This butterfly is a fast flier and frequents clearings, paths, and margins of forests and woodlands. It feeds on the nectar of flowers, such as lantanas (Lantana) and shepherd's-needle (Scandix pecten-veneris), and the tears of caiman, the eye of which the butterfly irritates to produce tears. Its caterpillar feeds on leaves of passion vines, including Passiflora affinis and yellow passionflower in Texas.
Its mating behavior is complex and involves a prolonged courtship whose outcome appears to be controlled by the female. This raises questions pertaining to the occurrence of the evolution of sexual conflict.
The species is popular in butterfly houses because it is long-lived and active throughout the day. However, the caterpillars are spiky and may cause a skin rash.
In tropical regions males of many species visit sandbanks, riversides and damp paths to indulge in mud-puddling, i.e. visiting patches of damp ground where they filter-feed by continually pumping water through their bodies while extracting dissolved minerals. The filtered water is often squirted back onto the ground to dissolve further minerals which are reimbibed. These chemicals are passed to females via spermatophore during copulation. Males which have already mated usually return to replenish their salts, and afterwards often mate again with another female. Females don't normally mud-puddle - they feed instead on nectar, visiting herbaceous plants and flowering trees.
The dazzling orange Dryas iulia is widespread and common in the southern United States, Central America and much of the Caribbean, and occurs throughout all of the tropical and subtropical areas of South America.
When D. iulia are caterpillars, they can cause a skin rash on humans if touched. This is likely from the yellow liquid that is produced from the tips of the long, black spines that cover its body, which is emitted as a predator deterrent related to their cyanogenic glycosides.