The Julia heliconian, Dryas iulia

The Julia heliconian (Dryas iulia)

Unexpected visitor

An exotic butterfly species Dryas iulia visited my garden yesterday evening. According to wikipedia, this species is commonly called the Julia heliconian is a native from Brazil to southern Texas and Florida. It was first seen in Phuket, Thailand and Langkawi, Malaysia in 2007 (Khew, 2009; Burg et al., 2014). It could have been intentionally released or escaped from butterfly farm, or hitchhike on imported plants or agricultural produce. It is not known whether the Dryas iulia found here in Kuala Lumpur originated from local butterfly farm or the butterfly has naturalized and expanded its range in Malaysia over the last decade. Its larval food  plant Passiflora foetida is  a common weed here.

When I first saw Dryas iulia from far, I thought it was Acraea violae, which is also orange in color. Acraea violae is another alien butterfly first observed in Malaysia 1996 and  is now common in the lowland of Peninsular Malaysia.  When I got closer I knew that it is a new species from the shape of its wings and colour. There is no local orange butterfly with such long and narrow wings. I quickly ran back to my house and grab my camera and I was lucky to be able to photograph if for about 15 minuted before it flew away.

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Dryas iulia resting on Loropetalum plant. It has long narrow wings.

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Dryas iulia feeding on Lantana camara flower.

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