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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Discover Life: Delias Mysis
- Zipcode Zoo: Delias Mysis
- James Cook University: Delias Mysis
- Charles Darwin University: Dry Season Observations of Butterflies in the "Gulf Country" of the Northern Territory and Far North-West Queensland
- James Cook University: Butterflies of the Townsville Area
- Center for Biodiversity Management: The Spatial Distribution of Rain Forest Butterflies at Three Sites in North Queensland, Australia