This week’s What’s on the van? comes from Amo Spooner, of the Museum’s Life Collections.
Papilio nobilis didingensis
This is a subspecies of butterfly in the family Papilionidae, commonly known as Swallowtail butterflies. It takes its name from its distinctive curved outline. This particular specimen is a paratype housed here in the Hope Entomological Collections, Life Collections. It was collected by G. D. H. Carpenter (who was the Hope Professor from 1933–1948) in the Didinga Mountains, South Sudan in 1925. His wife accompanied and collected with him and was reported to be the first white woman to visit Didinga.
The species Papilio nobilis, or the Noble Swallowtail, was first described by Rogenhofer in 1891 from Uganda. Then in 1928, Carpenter described this as a new subspecies in the Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London. As with all newly described species, the description of the specimen has to be published and those specimens are ideally housed within a museum collection for safe keeping. Carpenter gave the type specimen (a female) and 4 paratypes to our Hope Entomological Collections and other paratypes went to the Natural History Museum in London and to collections at Tring and Witley.
In his description, Carpenter explains that although plentiful in Didinga, they found this subspecies difficult to catch, except when they were fluttering at flowers or drinking fluids from mud. Carpenter also makes comparisons between his specimens and a fine series of P. nobilis collected in Uganda; he observed that the dark markings are variable depending on the locality of the butterfly.