Tisiphone abeona (Donovan, 1805)
Varied Swordgrass Brown
(one synonym : Oreas zelinde Hübner, [1808])
SATYRINAE,   NYMPHALIDAE,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Tisiphone abeona
(Photo: courtesy of Ross Kendall, Butterfly Encounters, Indooroopilly, Queensland)

These Caterpillars are green with indistinct longitudinal lines, sometimes with a vague dorsal orange markings. Initially the caterpillars are sparsely covered in long thin hairs, but later instars are sort of fuzzy. The caterpillars have a forked tail which is quite harmless.

Tisiphone abeona
(Photo: courtesy of Helen Schwencke, from Create More Butterflies)

The caterpillars feed on various species of :

  • Swordgrass ( Gahnia species, CYPERACEAE )

    which are tall sedges with sharply edged leaves. The caterpillars grow to a length of about 6 cms.

    Tisiphone abeona
    (Photo: courtesy of R.P. Field; © Museum Victoria)

    The pupa is green with a yellow line around the developing wings. It is suspended head down, by a cremaster, from a leaf of its food plant.

    Tisiphone abeona
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The wings of the adult butterflies are brown with a broad yellow stripe diagonally across each forewing. The forewings also each have two eyespots, one large and one small, and the hind wings have one eyespot each.

    Tisiphone abeona
    Underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The undersides are similar, except that each wing has two eyespots. The butterflies have a wingspan of about 6 cms.

    Tisiphone abeona
    (Photo: courtesy of Anthea Flemming)

    The species is found along the south-eastern coastal strip of Australia, from Gympie, through Victoria, to Adelaide, in which area several subspecies have been recognised :

  • abeona in New South Wales south of the Hunter River,
  • albifascia Waterhouse, 1904, in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia,
  • antoni Tindale, 1947, in New South Wales, and South Australia,
  • aurelia Waterhouse, 1915, in mid New South Wales,
  • joanna (Butler, 1866) in New South Wales,
  • morrisi Waterhouse, 1914, in coastal northern New South Wales,
  • regalis Waterhouse, 1928, in the mountains of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, and
  • rawnsleyi (Miskin, 1876) in coastal southern Queensland.
  • Tisiphone abeona
    subspecies Tisiphone abeona rawnsleyi
    (Photo: courtesy of Gary Brooks, Tinnanbar, Queensland)

    The subspecies rawnsleyi is unique in having no pale markings on the upper surfaces of the forewings.

    Tisiphone abeona
    ( Australia Post, 1981)


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 523-525.

    Edward Donovan,
    General Illustration of Entomology,
    An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of New Holland, New Zealand, New Guinea, Otaheite and other Islands in the Indian, Southern and Pacific Oceans,
    London (1803), Part 1, p. 105, and also Plate p. 14.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, p. 46.

    John Moss,
    Varied Swordgrass Brown Butterfly, Tisiphone abeona (Donovan, 1805) - a personal and historical perspective,
    Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Newslettter Issue 49 (June 2008), pp. 4-10.


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    (updated 22 April 2009, 3 March 2017)