Its striking looks have been noted for millennia by scientists and artists. The writer Vladimir Nabokov—who was also a noted lepidopterist—had admiring words for the butterfly in an otherwise scathing New York Times book review of Alice Ford's Audubon's Butterflies, Moths, and Other Studies (The Studio Publications). In the book, Ford labels drawings made previous to and during Audubon's time in the 19th century as "scientifi-cally [sic] unsophisticated."
In response to Ford, Nabokov writes, "The unsophistication is all her own. She might have looked up John Abbot's prodigious representations of North American lepidoptera, 1797, or the splendid plates of 18th- and early-19th-century German lepidopterists. She might have traveled back some 33 centuries to the times of Tuthmosis IV or Amenophis III and, instead of the obvious scarab, found there frescoes with a marvelous Egyptian butterfly (subtly combining the pattern of our Painted Lady and the body of an African ally of the Monarch)."
While the Plain Tiger's beauty is part of its charm, its looks can also be deadly. During its larval stages, the butterfly ingests alkaloids that are poisonous to birds—its main predator—which are often ...