Liphyra brassolis Westwood, 1864
Moth Butterfly
(also known as Sterosis brassolis)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

male and female upper surfaces
(Photo: courtesy of Yusuke Takanami & Yasuo Seki)

This Caterpillar is rusty brown, flat, and leathery, with a cream coloured head. It lives within the nest of the green ants :

  • Citrus Ants ( Oecophylla smaragdina, FORMICINAE ),

    feeding on ant larvae. The tough skin of the Caterpillar apparently protects it from the ants.

    It pupates in the ant nest. The pupa is formed within the last larval skin, which apparently protects it from attack by the ants. Its length is about 3 cms.

    male and female undersides
    (Photo: courtesy of Yusuke Takanami & Yasuo Seki)

    The adult butterfly, when it first emerges from its pupa, is covered in a grey powder, which seems to clog the ants jaws, and apparently makes it difficult for the ants to attack the butterfly. The butterflies are somewhat variable in coloration, being either brown with orange patches, or orange with brown patches. The underside is similar to the top only more washed out. The wingspan is about 7 cms.

    The eggs are laid singly or in small groups up to to six, on the underside of branches of a tree that has an appropriate ants nest. The eggs are tiny pale green flat cylinders, with a height of about 1 mm.

    The species occurs as various races from India to the south Pacific, including

  • India,
  • Papua, and
  • Thailand.

    The subspecies major Rothschild, 1898, occurs around the tropical coast of Australia, including:

  • Western Australia,
  • the Northern Territory, and
  • Queensland.

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby, Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 622-623.

    Densey Cline,
    Secrets of a Predatory Butterfly Liphyra brassolis exposed!,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 62 (September 2011), pp. 14-19,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    John O. Westwood,
    A butterfly from east India,
    Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London,
    Volume 3, Part 2 (1864), p. 31.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 23 March 2010)