Cephrenes augiades (C. Felder 1860)
Orange Palm-dart
(one synonym : Pamphila ulama Butler, 1870)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Cephrenes augiades
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans)

The caterpillar, when it hatches, is light green, with translucent smooth skin, and a prominent black head. As it develops, its head changes to grey with a faint pattern, and finally to white with a black V mark. It lives by day within a shelter made by using silk to join fronds of its foodplant, which conveniently fold together and bend across each other naturally. It feeds nocturnally, growing to a length of about 4 cms.

Cephrenes augiades
caterpillar exposed by opening its shelter by breaking
the pads of silk used to hold the folded leaf closed
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans)

The translucent skin enables the male and female caterpillars to be distinguished. The males have a yellow pair of developing sex organs visible through the skin at abdominal segment five.

Cephrenes augiades
later instar
(Photo: courtesy of Dianne Clarke, Mapleton, Queensland)

The caterpillar feeds on the fronds of various species of Palms (ARECACEAE), especially :

  • Bangalow Palm ( Archontophoenix cunninghamiana ),
  • Australian Cabbage Palm ( Livistona australis ), and
  • Date Palms ( Phoenix dactylifera ).

    The caterpillar turns into a pupa within its palm shelter. As it forms the pupa, it creates a quantity of white chalky powder. The pupa has a length of about 3 cms. After about two weeks, the butterfly emerges.

    The species has different male and female forms for the adult butterflies.

    Cephrenes augiades
    Male adult
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adult males have brown wings with large areas of orange markings. The abdomen of both sexes has brown and orange or yellow bands.

    Cephrenes augiades
    Male adult: natural posture
    (Photo: courtesy of Bob Bownds, Frankston)

    Underneath, the markings are less pronounced, and the dark brown area is restricted to a patch along the hind margin of each forewing, and a spot near the tornus of each hindwing. This latter spot is not visible when the butterfly is in its normal resting posture.

    Cephrenes augiades
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The females are slightly larger than the males, have more rounded wings, and are usually dark brown with a few sparse yellow marks.

    Cephrenes augiades
    Female adult
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The females have some variation in colour, some specimens being light brown with orange markings just as extensive as those of a male. The wingspan of the female is about 4 cms. The male is somewhat smaller.

    Cephrenes augiades
    egg, highly magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Walker, Melbourne, Victoria)

    This animal starts life as a cream hemispherical egg, with a diameter just over 1 mm. The egg develops red areas as it nears hatching. The egg is laid singly on the undersides of fronds of one of its foodplants,

    Various races of this species are found from Indonesia to the Solomons

    The subspecies sperthias Felder 1862, is found around the coast of mainland Australia, including

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Cephrenes augiades
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of Todd Burrows, South Stradbroke Island, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 230-231.

    Baron Cajetan von Felder,
    Lepidopterorum Amboienensium species novae diagnosibus,
    Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien,
    Volume 40, Part 11 (1860), p. 461, No. 51.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 21 August 2011, 5 January 2024)