A lot of my posts for the Blog to date have been to introduce interesting lines or add some new broad taxa. But, it is time for me to go back to my entomological roots! So today I am reviewing the orange-barred sulfur (Phoebis philea) that was released by Safari Ltd. as part of their Hidden Kingdom Insects line. The Hidden Kingdom line was started in 2001, following the retirement of the Smithsonian Insects line from the mid-late 1990s. Figures were released in intervals from 2001 and 2007, and then nothing until 2013 when a glo-in-the-dark version of an earlier sculpt (black widow spider) was re-released. From 2015-2018, adults from the Safariology life cycle sets were sold individually in the HK line. Finally, in 2019, the few remaining HK figures were merged with the Incredible Creatures line, essentially ending the Hidden Kingdom line. It is to be assumed any future insects made by Safari Ltd. will be part of the IC line.
The orange-barred sulfur is a pierid butterfly that occurs from southern United States (southern Texas and Florida, with strays throughout the southern half of the country) south to Brazil. The species is very common in Florida, which is probably why it has been made four times by the Florida-based Safari Ltd.
I am not sure when the orange-barred sulfur was released. The figure is marked ‘2004’, although this same sculpt was used for a blue morpho butterfly. One of the two was released in 2004, and the other probably in 2005 (I cannot remember which). As mentioned earlier, this species has been made four times by Safari Ltd.; other figures include those in the Authentics Butterflies collection (1997), Butterflies of the World Collectors Case (2001), and Butterflies TOOB (2011).
The figure has a wingspan of 10.5 cm, making it 1.5:1 on average (normal wingspan in nature 6.8-8.0 cm). The species is sexually dimorphic, and this figure is painted realistically as a female (it is the male that has the orange bars on the forewings that give the butterfly its common English name). It has six legs (which Pieridae do, but a common mistake when manufacturers make nymphalids, which have only four walking legs) and is displayed with its wings out flat and its proboscis partially uncoiled. Safari wanted to be sure all basic morphologic aspects of this butterfly were visible.
This figure makes a great collectible or an educational toy for children. It is large and sturdy an will probably hold up to rough play. It is big (for an insect figure) so collectors may want to pursue the TOOB collection for a smaller exemplar. This has always been one of my favorite HK figures. Since they have already used this sculpt twice, I am surprised they have not recycled it more for even more species. Safari must be careful in doing so, however, the nuances of the shape of a butterfly’s wings can be crucial to its identity!