Hypolycaena phorbas (Fabricius, 1793)
Black-spotted Flash
(one synonym : Hesperia noctula Staudinger, 1888)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Hypolycaena phorbas
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

This Caterpillar is green or brown, with a broad white-edged dorsal line.

Hypolycaena phorbas
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

The caterpillar is aways attended by the green ants :

  • Citrus Ants ( Oecophylla smaragdina, FORMICINAE ).

    It usually hides by day under a leaf, and feeds by night on the leaves, young shoots, buds, and flowers of a wide variety of plants, including :

  • Pudding Pie Tree ( Cassia fistula, CAESALPINIACEAE ),
  • Sandy Mangrove ( Lumnitzera racemosa, COMBRETACEAE ),
  • Black Bean ( Castanospermum australe, FABACEAE ),
  • Supplejack ( Flagellaria indica, COMMELINACEAE ),
  • Glory Bower ( Clerodendrum inerme, LAMIACEAE ),
  • Billy Goat Plum ( Planchonia careya, LECYTHIDACEAE ),
  • Long Flowered Mistletoe ( Dendrophthoe vitellina, LORANTHACEAE ),
  • River Mangrove ( Aegiceras corniculatum, PRIMULACEAE ),
  • Powder Puff Lillipilly ( Syzygium wilsonii, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Yellow Mangrove ( Ceriops tagal, RHIZOPHORACEAE ),
  • Carrotwood ( Cupaniopsis anacardioides, SAPINDACEAE ), and
  • Barbed Wire Bush ( Smilax australis , SMILACACEAE ).

    The caterpillars pupate on the stems of the food plant, often in groups, head down. The pupae are green or brown with dark flecks and mottling. They have a length of about 1.5 cms.

    Hypolycaena phorbas
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adults are brown on top. The males have fore wings with a blue sheen and a large dark patch in the middle.

    Hypolycaena phorbas
    (Photo: courtesy of Martin Purvis)

    The females have fore wings with a white patch having a blue edge. The hind wings of both sexes each have two little tails from the trailing edge each beside a large black and white eye spot.

    Hypolycaena phorbas
    underside, male
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    Underneath, the butterflies are fawn, each wing having two rows of darker spots parallel to the wing margins. The hind wings each have two small orange and black eye spots on the trailing edge. The butterflies fly fast and are inclined to settle on the tips of twigs. They have a wing span of about 3 cms.

    Hypolycaena phorbas
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The eggs are white and hemispherical and rough. They are laid singly on the underside a foodplant leaf.

    The species occurs over

  • New Guinea,

    and in Australia in:

  • ingura Tindale, 1923, in the north of Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory, and
  • Queensland.

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 735-736.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta,
    Volume 3, Part 1 (1793), p. 277, No. 68.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 15 November 2012, 26 December 2023)