Chin’s Nature Corner

The Plain Tiger The Plain Tiger
The Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) feeding at Lantana flowers. Copyright © Chin Fah Shin

The Flying Tigers

THE PLAIN TIGER is a butterfly of medium size that one may see flying in the Malaysian countryside or suburban gardens and parks. And, as one can see from the photos above, it is far from plain. It is a striking creature with contrasting black and white spots on a yellow-brown ground colour, far prettier than most other commonly encountered butterflies.
 This species (Danaus chrysippus) is widely distributed. It can be found in regions stretching from East Asia to tropical Africa, from South and Southeast Asia down to Australia, and is known by

various names in different parts of its range, such as African Monarch, Lesser Wanderer and Golden Danaid. These names are certainly more complimentary.
Danaus chrysippus is not the only butterfly with "Tiger" in its English common name. We have more than a dozen of these "flying tigers". Some other members of this group are the Common Tiger (Danaus genutia), Black-veined Tiger (Danaus melanippus), Chocolate Tiger (Parantica melaneus) and Blue Glassy Tiger (Ideopsis vulgaris).
 Most of them bear striking colour combinations and have a leisurely flight characteristic of milkweed butterflies (Subfamily Danainae). It is likely that the

Tiger butterflies are so named because of their fulvous orange colour and black markings reminiscent of the big cat.
 But why is Danaus chrysippus called the Plain Tiger? I have not found anything in the literature which gives any indication of the origin of this common name. I would be happy to hear from readers who have any information regarding this.
 The Plain Tiger (as are all the Danaid butterflies) is related to the world renowned Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of North America. This species is known for its annual mass migration from Mexico to Canada and back. I have not seen any record of such mass migration by the Plain Tiger.

This page revised on 20 June 2018. Copyright © Chin Fah Shin.