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Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery

White Barred Charaxes Butterfly

The white barred charaxes is one of the fastest flying butterflies in the world, with some reaching speeds of almost 40 miles per hour using their large, strong wings. Typically dwelling in medium and high altitude tropical African forests, members of the species prefer densely wooded areas and often fly high in the tree canopy. Such traits can make the species extremely difficult to catch unless one knows the secret to attracting the elusive butterflies.

Classified scientifically by lepidopterists as Charaxes brutus, the white barred charaxes butterfly joins 156 other African and 23 non-African species in the biologically rich and diverse genus known as the rajah butterflies. A favorite of collectors because of the intricate patterns on their wing undersides, white barred charaxes butterflies display a prominent white vertical stripe on both sides of their wings. As members of the butterfly family Nymphalidae, the butterflies sometimes referred to as white-barred Caraks feature a highly modified first pair of legs that are used for tasting instead of walking.

White barred charaxes caterpillars consume the leaves of mahogany, honeysuckle, Cape ash, and Chinaberry trees. Since larval white barred charaxes feast on economically important tropical timber species, the caterpillars are considered agricultural pests. Consequently, the species is subjected to chemical control by frequent insecticide applications. However, the Cape ash is used as an ornamental tree in many urban areas, a botanical extension that has enabled the white-barred charaxes to thrive in some African countries despite a decrease in its natural habitat.

Harvesting wild butterflies is a lucrative field in Africa, where profits from rare specimen can often sustain large families. The fast speeds and high-flying tendencies of adult white barred charaxes used to make them rare in butterfly collections, but the discovery that the species could be lured to screen traps with baits of dung and fermented fruit has made them much easier to obtain. Although mounted specimens are available commercially, butterfly conservancies allow thousands of people, who may never have the opportunity to enjoy them in the wilds of Africa, to view live specimens.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Shannon H. Neaves, Laurence D. Zuckerman, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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