Polyura sempronius

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Tailed emperor
Polyura pyrrhus sempronius female.jpg
Mounted female
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Polyura
Species: P. sempronius
Binomial name
Polyura sempronius
(Fabricius, 1793)

Polyura (pyrrhus) sempronius, the tailed emperor, is a large butterfly by Australian standards, with a wingspan of some 75 mm for males and 85 mm for females.[1] The uncommon but widespread[2] butterfly occurs in a variety of habitat types[2] in northern and eastern Australia, where it occurs predominantly in the warm and subtropical coastal regions. It is a resident species where its food plants, certain legumes (Mimosaceae and Caesalpiniaceae) and kurrajongs, are native.[2]



The green, mature caterpillar is unique among Australian butterflies. A yellow line runs along each side, and the back is marked by one or more crescent shapes. The green head has two pairs of long horns besides a smaller set behind the head-scale.[1]


The upperside is boldly marked in black and white, with narrow blue-grey margins, and specks of orange on the hindwings. The prominent double-pointed tails gives the butterfly its name. The underwing of both sexes are marked in complex patterns of red and yellow brown, against on a white background, bordered by black outlines and an orange edge to the hindwing.[1]


Though formerly limited to northern and eastern Australia, it expanded its range during the 1970s. It may now be found in southern New South Wales, Victoria and eastern South Australia,[2] but it is not permanently established.[2] Its residence in the southern regions depends on mild winters, and availability of their food plants.[1] It was first noted in Adelaide in 1973, where it remains rare.

Food plants[edit]

The larval food is the foliage of certain native and introduced tree species. The native species include wattles, Illawarra flame-tree, lacebark or white kurrajong, kurrajong[1] and Celtis species,[2] while the black locust or false acacia is an exotic species that is also favoured.[1] Adults may feed on the sap of trees, rotting fruit and moisture from dung.[1][2]


These fast, strong flyers are mostly seen in the dry season.[2] Males frequent hilltops, and establish territories, by perching head down, some 3 m up in trees, while they move the hindwings move up and down.[2] Two or more generations may be produced annually.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Tailed Emperor" (PDF). Butterfly Gardening, fact sheet. butterflygardening.net.au. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Braby, Michael F. (2004). Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia. CSIRO Publishing. p. 174. ISBN 0643090274.