by Kendra Norrell, Assistant Butterfly Curator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The Butterfly of the Month for September is the Paper Kite Butterfly (Idea leuconoe). If you have seen Paper Kites at Butterflies LIVE! in the Conservatory, there are a few things that you might have noticed: we have a lot of Paper Kites in the exhibit, they really stand out compared to other butterflies, and they move slow enough so that you can really examine them.
Here’s a neat fact: Paper Kites are so distasteful to predators that after tasting one, a predator will never try to eat one again. Of course, this helps with their survival. The reason they move so slow and fly so gracefully is to advertise what they look like. They want to remind all of their predators that they are the same disgusting butterfly they ate last time. This works pretty well for the Paper Kites and other butterflies that mimic their patterns.
During the exhibit, I’ve noticed that the Paper Kite Butterflies are incredibly friendly. I don’t know if some people use a certain kind of soap or lotion that they like, but once a Paper Kite decides that it likes you there is no escape from them! Butterflies LIVE! staff gently remove a Paper Kite from a visitor, but often they’ll just fly right back! Paper Kites are also very photogenic, their slowness also makes them easy to catch on film.