You may someday wander down a road in the American Tropics and see Julia butterflies clustered along the way in hundreds and thousands, sipping at the damp places, or rising in glittering orange clouds into the air. If you try to catch one, however, it suddenly turns into a demon of action, storming away through the air like a frightened hummingbird. Watch a Julia flitting along the edges of the woods and sometime you may see the butterfly it mimics, a similar-looking Heliconian. The Heliconian is poisonous, but the Julia is not. However, birds leave the Julia along because they think it too is poisonous. The peculiar thing is that usually, the non-poisonous Julia is much more common than the poisonous butterfly it mimics.
Another difference between the Julia and one it mimics is that the Julia has a much stronger flight and widely roams over miles of the country while the other butterfly is usually found only along the edges of woods and is a poor flier. It almost seems as though the Julia has become such a swift flier that it no longer needs the protection of looking like something poisonous to eat.
The caterpillars have long, branching spines and live on leaves of the Passion Flowers, which are common along many a tropical American road.
This great butterfly, often almost three and a half inches in wingspread, has brilliant red spots glowing on its underwings against a delicate Japanese blue color so strangely lovely that the design looks almost like a scene from fairyland. In spite of its exquisite beauty, it likes to alight on such dirty things as dog dung and other manure or decaying material left along a roadway. It may even drink the juices of rotting animal bodies, as it is frequently found upon them, apparently thoroughly enjoying itself.
1 to 1 1/2 inch wingspread. This soft-colored little skipper can be told from others by the dark veins and peculiar mark on the fore-wings and the bright yellow-orange of the under-sides of the hind wings. The females are much larger than the males and have more dark markings.
The Acmon Blue is told immediately from other related species by the lovely orange and black-spotted band inside the margin of the high wing. The male is lighter blue color than the female, which also has considerable brown color. These delicate little blue butterflies flit gently among the grasses and flowers of meadows and gardens, usually fluttering so helplessly that they are easy to catch. They do have one protection against birds and that is by lighting on a grass stem and folding the wings. The sudden disappearance of the blue color of the upper wings, being replaced by the lighter colors of the undersides must be confusing to a bird, even though the butterfly does not become completely camouflaged.
In the dark jungles of Central America and South America all kinds of animals and birds and insects hunt butterflies. Life for a butterfly in these places is one continual flight from danger. Some butterflies escape by their swift flight, others by camouflaging themselves to look like bark or leaves. Still others carry a poisonous substance within them that make most other creatures leave them alone in disgust. But perhaps the most interesting way of all is when one butterfly mimics or copies the appearance of a poisonous butterfly so it too will be left alone.