Habitat of the Union Jack Butterfly

By Lauren Corona

The Union Jack butterfly (Delias mysis) is named after the British flag, presumably due to its similar coloration. Also known as the red-banded Jezebel, this member of the taxonomic family Pieridae has a specific habitat in which it prefers to live -- mostly in tropical rainforests.

Geographical Range

Union Jack butterflies are endemic to Australia and parts of its surrounding islands, such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Japan. However, they're most common in Australia, where they can be found in coastal wet tropics of Queensland -- from Mackay to the tip of Cape York -- as well as in a small area at the top of the Northern Territory.

Habitat

Preferring to live in warm, tropical areas, Union Jack butterflies survive mostly in swampland, mangroves and rainforests. They can be found at a range of altitudes, anywhere between sea level and elevations of 7,874 feet. As such, you might see them at the tree canopy level, although they also look for food closer to the ground.

Feeding

Adult Union Jack butterflies are staunch nectar-eaters, which they extract from a range of tropical flowers. The larvae -- or caterpillars -- of the species have a more specialized diet. They can only eat the leaves of the mistletoe plant, so female butterflies make sure to lay their eggs only on this kind of vegetation. The caterpillars will feed on the leaves, growing ever bigger, until it's time for them to pupate.

Appearance

Union Jack butterflies' bright coloration makes them fairly easy to identify. The topsides of their wings are slightly drab -- mostly white, with a black border around the edges -- but the undersides are more remarkable. They're red, black, yellow and white, in a striped pattern. They have wingspans of a bit more than 2 inches.