It’s Garden Acraea season again. Gardeners are upset and concerned that their wild peach trees are being decimated by caterpillars. Fear not – they are adapted to the cycle and will suffer no long-term harm.
The leaves of the Wild Peach (Kiggalaria africana) contain cyanide as a defense against being eaten by insect larvae – except one. But the caterpillar of the Garden Acraea butterfly (Acraea horta) has evolved to eat the leaves without harm as it can safely store the cyanide in its body.
This, in turn, safeguards both caterpillar and adult Acraea from predation by birds – except for Klaas’ Cuckoo. This bird has in turn evolved to safely eat the Acraea.