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The Most Common Butterfly in Thailand

One of the most common butterflies in Thailand is the Common Mormon, a species of Swallowtail butterfly. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Common Mormon butterfly is its mimicry behavior. It exhibits multiple forms, each mimicking different toxic or inedible butterfly species. This mimicry provides protection from Thai predators as they mistake the Common Mormon for the toxic butterflies it imitates.

The Common Mormon butterfly is generally large with a wingspan ranging from 9 to 10 cm. It features a mix of black, white, and red markings on its wings. The male’s wings are elongated, with the characteristic “swallowtail” appearance. They are found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, open fields, and forests. It is relatively adaptable and can be seen in both urban and rural areas.

We caught these two guys (seen in the photo above) hanging out on the road next to our house after a rainstorm. What they are doing is called “puddling”. This is when a butterfly sips puddles on a road or stony surface, because the water is rich in mineral salts and other essential nutrients that have leached from the surrounding soil and rocks.

Males do this more than females because the males need the nutrients to attract females and be able to reproduce. The reason we were able to get so close to them for the photograph above is that butterflies seem to go into a drunken stupor after “puddling” for a little while. Thus the activity can be dangerous, exposing them to predators.

On a Thai culture side note, women in Thailand have adopted the English word “butterfly” to refer to men (especially foreigners) who are playboys and should be avoided. If you are interested in pretty winged insects, be sure to check out our post on the largest Moth in Thailand.

David Alan