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Rainbow butterfly - Urania ripheus – underside

Rainbow butterfly - Urania ripheus – underside

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Rainbow butterfly - Urania ripheus – underside

The "rainbow butterfly" or "Madagascar sunset moth" (Chrysiridia rhipheus) is an endemic butterfly from Madagascar that belongs to the family of swallowtail butterflies. The wings have a span of 70 to 90 mm and are jet black with iridescent, mostly greenish-brownish stripes on the upper side. The iridescent colors on the upper side of the hind wings, which are created by the surface structure of the wing scales, are particularly striking. The butterflies are diurnal and have six white, fringed tails on the outer edge of the hind wings.

The caterpillar is creamy white with black spots and bristles, the pupa is a characteristic green color. The species is native to Madagascar and lives mainly in tropical forests. The butterflies feed on flowers and leaves of the genus Omphalea, which belong to the spurge family. These plants contain toxins that are absorbed by the caterpillars, pupae and butterflies and protect them from predators.

The population of Chrysiridia rhipheus was threatened by the collector trade, but was stabilized again after the trade was banned. Currently, the destruction of its natural habitat through slash-and-burn agriculture and palm oil plantations threatens the populations of this striking butterfly.

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