Hypolimnas bolina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Blue Moon or Varied Eggfly
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Hypolimnas bolina
caterpillar with orange horns
(Photo: courtesy of Jutta Godwin, Cubberla-Witton Catchments Network, Brisbane, Queensland)

The common name for this species, Eggfly, is a reference to the white oval patch on the forewing of the male butterflies of this species.

The Caterpillar is cylindrical and black, with orange tubercles all over the body, and a pair of tubercles on its head which can be either black or orange.

Hypolimnas bolina
caterpillar with black horns
(Photo: courtesy of Donni Hakanson, Townsville, Queensland)

The caterpillars have been reported feeding on plants from a variety of families, including:

  • Karamat ( Hygrophila angustifolia, ACANTHACEAE ),
  • Lesser Joyweed ( Alternanthera denticulata, AMARANTHACEAE ),
  • Cinderella Weed ( Synedrella nodiflora, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Sweet Potato ( Ipomaea batatas, CONVOLVULACEAE ),
  • Paddy's Lucerne ( Sida rhombifolia, MALVACEAE ),
  • Trailing Knotweed ( Persicaria prostrata, POLYGONACEAE ),
  • White Eye ( Richardia brasiliensis, RUBIACEAE ),
  • Eggplant ( Solanum melongena), SOLANACEAE ), and
  • Australian Mulberry ( Pipturus argenteus, URTICACEAE ).

    Hypolimnas bolina
    Caterpillar getting ready to pupate
    (Photo: courtesy Brett Howton, Narangba, Queensland)

    The caterpillars are intially communal, but later instars become solitary. They feed at night, hiding by day some distance from their foodplant. They can grow to a length of about 6 cms.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    (Specimen: courtesy Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The pupa is brown with black spikes. It hangs by a cremaster from a silk pad under a twig or leaf, and has a length of about 3 cms.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The adult male butterfly is black with a large white spot in middle of each wing. These spots are surrounded by a remarkable purple iridescence when viewed obliquely. The male wingspan is about 8 cms.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    (Specimen: courtesy of Jonathan Tritter and the Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The female is similar but also has an orange mark on each forewing, and is much more variable in coloration.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    female with extra orange coloring
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The female is also larger, having a typical wingspan of about 9 cms.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    female with no orange coloring at all
    (Photo: courtesy of Linda Cooper, The Gold Coast, Queensland)

    The undersides of the wings of the females are brown with a diagonal white band and a curved arc of white spots on each wing.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    female underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The undersides of the wings of the males are black with a diagonal white band and a curved arc of white spots on each wing.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    male underside
    (Specimen: courtesy of Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The species is found from the Indian Ocean across south-east Asia to the south Pacific Ocean, including :

  • Fiji,
  • India,
  • Madagascar,
  • New Zealand,
  • Philippines,
  • Singapore,
  • Taiwan,
  • Vanuatu,

    and the subspecies nerina (Fabricius, 1775) is found particularly in Australia in:

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    (Specimen: courtesy of Anna Piper and the Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour)

    The eggs are spherical and pale yellow or green. They are laid in small irregular groups under leaves of foodplants. The female butterflies are inclined to be protective of plants on which they have laid eggs.

    The male butterflies are attacked in the egg by a Wolbachia bacterium. However, some populations are developing immunity to this parasite.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    Nauru, 1984
    Hypolimnas bolina
    Nauru, 1984

    This is a featured species at the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. The butterflies may be purchased for release at weddings etc.

    Hypolimnas bolina
    (Courtesy : Instant Scratch Its)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 567-569.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 45, 60.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 479, No. 124.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 31 March 2011, 20 September 2013, 3 September 2016, 27 Sepember 2018, 9 July 2020)