Seeking Butterflies
Indian Red AdmiralIn the early days, Taiwan used to be known as the "Kingdom of Butterflies" because of the massive export of butterfly products. The butterflies today, however, demand another form of attention. "Butterfly-watching" is a recently developed activity and, like bird watching, butterfly watching is growing in popularity. Most people ask, how do you tell butterflies from moths? An easy and accurate method is to look at their antennas; the antennas of all butterflies are club-shaped while moths have either pointed or feathered antennas. It is not hard to notice some butterflies, even in the middle of downtown Taipei, but just where do you look to see more of the 400 species of butterflies Taiwan boasts? Actually, any place not thoroughly developed will be a good place to start, such as many forested hills around Taipei. Butterflies are most numerous during the warmer months, especially early summer. Butterflies are most active in fair weather around mid-morning and late afternoon. Some butterflies, however, are active year-round and all day; so the more observant you are, the more butterflies you will see. Below are some clues a butterfly watcher should take notice of when seeking the presence of the beautiful butterflies.
Great Mormon (female)
Great Orange Tip (male)Flowers
Indian Red AdmiralA majority of butterflies visit flowers regularly although there are also many butterflies that never go near flowers. Of those that do, many species are large and attractive such as the Great Mormon (Papilio memnon), the Great Orange Tip (Hebomoia glaucippe) or handsome Indian Red Admiral (Venessa indica). They are easy to find, as they like many kinds of wild or cultivated flowers; look for them in parks, gardens, or anywhere else where a lot of flowers are blooming.

Common Bluebottle (male)Along the Bank of Streams or Moist Ground
Papilio hoppo (male)Butterflies require minerals not found in a diet of pollen, so they often drink the water from stream beds, waterfalls, dripping faucets, or leaky pipes. They release the water again soon after drinking it, absorbing the minerals in the process. A wide variety of butterflies gather at damp surfaces, especially swallowtails such as the Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon) or the endemic Papilio hoppo, but usually, only the male butterflies drink. If urine is present in the water, it will attract even more butterflies!

Dichorragia nesimachusCitrus Orchards
Blue AdmiralTo find butterflies in an orchard, make sure it has not been sprayed. Citrus trees often have sap leaking out of their trunks, which is a favorite diet of many butterflies, such as this striking Dichorragia nesimachus. Do not be surprised that many of the butterflies are well camouflaged, such as this Blue Admiral (Kaniska canace). The larvae of many kinds of swallowtails eat leaves of citrus trees, so swallowtail butterflies also gather in citrus orchards to find mates and to lay eggs.

Fermenting fruit attracts a variety of butterflies.Rotting Fruit
Stichophthalma howqua (pair)Rotting fruit stinks, and the smell calls the attention of butterflies from long distances away. A lot of butterflies that like tree sap also like rotting fruit. Many of them, like these, are also well camouflaged, but not this magnificent pair of Stichophthalma howqua. A handful of rare species may also be lured out of hiding using rotting fruit.

Animal Droppings
Another stinking favorite of some butterflies--and flies too--is animal dung! The dung humans or animals leave behind often attracts butterflies once they pick up its "aroma." However, most of the butterflies here, such as this Great NawabGreat Nawab (Polyura eudamippus), would also be glad to visit orchards and rotting fruit, where it may be more pleasant for the observer!


Raising butterflies is often thrilling for children and adults alike. Simple research will tell you the food plant of a butterfly's larvae. The next time you go outdoors, examine the undersides of the leaves of the food plant. Lime Butterfly emergingWith luck, you may find some eggs or larvae. Carefully pluck the leaf with the egg or larvae on it and keep it in a closed container. Clean out the container and feed the larvae fresh leaves from the food plant every day. When the larvae matures, it will become a motionless pupa on the side of the container. Now, all you have to do is wait. Larva of Common BluebottleThe rewarding experience of seeing your own butterfly emerge from its pupa shell and spread out its gorgeous wings cannot be described with words. After witnessing the struggles a caterpillar must overcome before finally developing into an awe-inspiring creature, people will only feel deep respect for these wonderful creatures.

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