THE PLAIN TIGER (Danaus chrysippus)
is a milkweed butterfly often seen flying
in rural or suburban areas. Contrary to its common name, it is a striking butterfly with contrasting
black and white markings on brown and yellow ground colours. In my view, it is far from plain and is definitely
prettier than many species that are commonly encountered in Malaysia.
This species is widely distributed. It can be found in regions stretching from East Asia to tropical Africa,
from South and Southeast Asia down to Australia, and is known by various names in different parts of its range - the
African Monarch, Lesser Wanderer and Golden Danaid. So whats in a name? The Plain Tiger is still a pretty
little creature. But its other names are certainly more complimentary.
The Plain Tiger is a relative of the migra-tory Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of North America. This
species is renowned for its annual mass migration from Mexico to Canada and back. I have not found any record of mass
migration by the Plain Tiger.
This butterfly belongs to the subfamily Danainae (previously family Danaidae) which comprises butterflies
that are commonly known as the Tigers and Crows. Some members of this group are the Common Tiger (Danaus genutia),
the Black-veined Tiger (Danaus melanippus), the Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis), the Chocolate
Tiger (Parantica melaneus), the Magpie Crow (Euploiea diocletianus), and the Striped Blue
Crow (Euploiea mulcibar).
They all bear striking colour combinations and have a leisurely flight characteristic of milkweed butterflies. It is
likely that the Tiger butterflies are so named because of their fulvous orange colour and black markings reminiscent of
the big cat. But why is Danaus chrysippus called the Plain Tiger? I have found nothing in the literature which gives any
indication of the origin of this common name. I would be happy to hear from readers who have any information regarding this.
⇒ To see more butterfly pictures, please visit Chin's Butterfly Gallery.