Heteronympha merope (Fabricius, 1775)
Common Brown
(one synonym : Satyrus archemor Godart, [1824])
SATYRINAE ,   NYMPHALIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Heteronympha merope
(Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley)

Merope was the name of several women in Ancient Greek Mythology. Also, "meropia" is a term meaning "partially sighted".

Early instars of this Caterpillar are bright green, but the final instar can be either green, grey or pale brown in colour. They have either brown or black markings. The latter occur as dashes that form a broken mid-dorsal line, and as two rows of spots on either side. The head is brown, with a white line on each side of the rear dorsal surface of the head capsule which becomes brown as it extends over the face. The tail is forked. The whole surface of the body is covered with short hairs.

The caterpillars hide by day at the base of their foodplant. They emerge at night, feeding on various species of grass ( POACEAE ), including :

  • False Brome ( Brachypodium distachyon ),
  • Couch ( Cynodon dactylon ),
  • Panic Veldt Grass ( Ehrharta erecta ),
  • Coast Tussock Grass ( Poa poiformis ),
  • Snow Grass ( Microlaena stipoides ), and
  • Kangaroo Grass ( Themeda triandra ).

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 4 cms.

    Heteronympha merope
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley)

    Pupae were formed in captivity after ten weeks. The pupa is grey-brown with dark brown markings. It is formed on the surface of the soil, and has a length of about 2 cms. The adults emerge after a pupal duration of about four weeks in Melbourne. Males are the first to appear in the spring. Females outnumber males as summer advances.

    Heteronympha merope
    Female

    The adults, like those of many NYMPHALIDAE, have only 4 legs. The adult female is predominently orange on the upper wing surfaces. The outer halves of the forewings and the margins of the hindwings are dark brown. A blue-centred ocellus and three yellow patches are enclosed within the black half of each forewing. An ocellus decorates each hindwing, near the tornus.

    Heteronympha merope
    Female

    Underneath, the forewing is as above except for a grey patch at the apex. The hindwings underneath are a blotchy grey-brown with faint zig-zag markings. The female has a wingspan of about 7 cms.

    Heteronympha merope
    Male
    (Photo: courtesy of Bruce Anstee, Riverstone, Sydney)

    The adult male has a wingspan of about 6 cms. The wing upper surfaces are orange except for brown-black markings, and blue centred ocelli, one near the apex of each forewing, and one near the tornus of each hindwing.

    Heteronympha merope
    Male
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley)

    Underneath, the male has pale orange forewings, with a brown patch at the apex. The hindwings underneath are brown, and marked by zig-zag dark lines and three ocelli. The males spend their time gently fluttering above the ground and searching through the undergrowth for females, which emerge at the same time but are far more secretive.

    Heteronympha merope
    mating pair, female on the left
    (Photo: courtesy of Bruce Anstee, Riverstone, Sydney)

    The adults are difficult to notice on leaf litter when their wings are closed.

    The eggs are roughly spherical with a diameter of about 1 mm. They are cream and usually laid singly on a leaf of a foodplant.

    The Common Brown occurs in the southern half Australia, and a number or races have been proposed to cover the various colorings observed, including :

  • duboulayi (Butler, 1867)in south of Western Australia, and
  • salazar (Fruhstorfer, 1911) in Tasmania, and
  • merope in southern Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 509-511.


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    (updated 11 October 2012, 20 September 2013)