Hypochrysops apollo Miskin, 1891
Apollo Jewel
LUCIINI ,   THECLINAE ,   LYCAENIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
  
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Hypochrysops apollo

Hypochrysops apollo
(Photos: courtesy of Bob Miller and Ian Hill)

The Caterpillars of this species are mottled brown, and live in hollows in the bulbs of various species of Ant Plant :

  • Beccari's Ant Plant ( Myrmecodia beccarii, RUBIACEAE ), and
  • Tuberous Ant Plant ( Myrmecodia tuberosa, RUBIACEAE ),

    which are epiphytes on various coastal trees, particularly:

  • Niaouli Paperbark ( Melaleuca viridifolia, MYRTACEAE ) .

    The caterpillars feed on the interior tissues in the bulb in which it lives, and nocturnally emerges to feed also on the foliage. Its exit hole in its home bulb becomes surround by frass, which is a useful guide to discovering a caterpillar. The same galleries in the plant bulb house a nest of some species of ants, including :

  • the Australian native Golden Ant ( Philidris cordata, DOLICHODERINAE ), and
  • the introduced Tuyaoozuari Ant ( Pheidole megacephala, MYRMICINAE ).

    Only one caterpillar appears to live in any one plant. The ants and the caterpillar seem to ignore each other, the caterpillar apparently feeding on the plant tissues. However, some observers believe that the Caterpillar feeds on the ant larvae, and some believe that the ants farm the Caterpillar.

    Hypochrysops apollo

    Hypochrysops apollo
    (Photos: courtesy of Bob Miller and Ian Hill)

    The caterpillar pupates in its gallery. The pupa is speckled brown, with a length of about 2 cms.

    Hypochrysops apollo Hypochrysops apollo
    Male
    (Picture: courtesy of The Insect Company)

    The adult butterflies are bright orange, with black edges to the wings. The female has larger areas of black than the male.

    Hypochrysops apollo
    female
    (Picture: courtesy of The Insect Company)

    The undersides of the wings are pale orange with cream, black, and darker orange spots edged in iridescent blue. The wingspan is about 3.5 cms.

    Hypochrysops apollo
    Male

    This species is considered to be endangered. Its occurrence is confined to

  • New Guinea,

    and two areas of the north-east coast of Australia in Queensland as the subspecies:

  • phoebus (Waterhouse, 1928) from Cape York, and
  • apollo from Cairns to Townsville.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 651-652.

    William Henry Miskin,
    Synonymical catalogue of the Lepidoptera Rhopalocera (Butterflies) of Australia, with full bibliographical reference; including descriptions of some new species,
    Annals of the Queensland Museum,
    Volume 1 (1891), p. 85.

    John T. Moss,
    The intriguing Apollo Jewel butterfly (Hypochrysops apollo Miskin, 1891); its remarkable hostplants and ant associations,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 74 (September 2014), pp. 4-9,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.


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    (updated 9 December 2009, 3 November 2013)