Southern Purple Azure
ARHOPALINI, THECLINAE, LYCAENIDAE, PAPILIONOIDEA
(Photo: courtesy of R.P. Field, Museums Victoria)
This Caterpillar is flattened, and brown with darker brown dots. It lives in a nest of any of several species of :
and is shepherded to its food by the ants. This was extensively illustrated in the BBC video "Metropolis" in the series "Alien Empire". The caterpillar feeds on the foliage of various Mistletoes (LORANTHACEAE) including species in the genera:
The pupa is dark brown and formed in the ants nest. Its length is about 2.5 cms.
The male adult is metallic purple in colour. The female is black with metallic azure toward the hinge, and a cream patch near the tip of each forewing.
The undersides of the forewings are dark brown, with a series of white bars along the costa. The hindwings underneath have a complex fawn pattern. The females have additionally a white patch under each forewing. The butterflies have a wingspan of about 5 cms.
The eggs of this species are flattened fawn spheres each with about 1,000 tiny hexagonal dimples. The eggs have a diameter of about 1 mm. They are laid singly on the food plant or nearby branches.
The species occurs in
Several races have been proposed, however, each shows a great deal of variation, and their status is controversial.
Further reading :
Issue 24 (Oct-Dec 1991), pp. 43-47.
Michael F. Braby,
Butterflies of Australia,
CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 706-708.
William Chapman Hewitson,
Illustrations of new species of exotic butterflies,
London, Volume 5 (1853), p.64,, and Plate 32, figs. 5-6.
(updated 25 June 2008, 20 September 2013, 1 August 2020, 10 September 2021)