Caper White Butterfly

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Belenois javaGenus: Belenois
Species: Belenois java
Common names: Caper White Butterfly
ALA reference

You may recall from the November and December 2006 Notes that the Caper White butterflies laid some eggs last year but that the newly hatched caterpillars quickly devoured the very few new leaves and then perished because they were not big enough to feed on the mature native caper leaves. This year the conditions were quite different and when the Caper White butterflies arrived the native capers – Capparis arborea and Capparis sarmentosa – had produced masses of soft new growth. Their caterpillars grew rapidly and eventually stripped all the leaves from some of the native capers. However before all the leaves were gone most of the caterpillars had reached maturity and pupated. Their chrysalises completely covered some of the stems. I think the lack of predators was the main reason the caterpillars really thrived. However with such a bountiful supply of caterpillars and pupae the predators are starting to multiply. I’ve spotted quite a number of small parasitic wasps of the genus Brachymeria laying their eggs on the pupae. The wasp larvae will feed on the developing pupae and eventually kill them before the butterflies can develop. Nevertheless the first butterflies have already started to emerge from the chrysalises and in some parts of the reserve there are now hundreds of Caper White butterflies. However there is really no food left for the larvae of any eggs these butterflies might lay. (October 2007)

Look out for the Caper White Butterfly (Belenois java) over the next few months as it has been laying eggs on the native bush caper berry (Capparis arborea). The caterpillars of this butterfly feed exclusively on the native caper bushes. The native bush caper berry is very common right across the site and many plants are now covered in buds. (November 2006)

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