NYMPHALIDAE of Australia
Admirals, Aeroplanes, Browns, Daniaids, Emperors, Fritillaries, Leafwings, Longwings, Nymphs, and Satyrs PAPILIONOIDEA
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley








The morphology of Caterpillars of NYMPHALIDAE varies with the subfamily:

  • APATURINAE (Emperors) caterpillars are smooth with a pair of horns on the head,
  • CHARAXINAE (also called Emperors) caterpillars are smooth with a multi-horned head capsule,
  • DANAINAE (Danaids, Tigers, Crows) caterpillars are smooth and have several long pairs of tentacles on the back,
  • HELICONIINAE (Lacewings, Fritillaries, Rustics) caterpillars are covered in spiky branched hairs,
  • LIBYTHEINAE (Snout Butterflies) caterpillars are smooth and cylindrical with sparse short hairs,
  • LIMENITIDINAE (Aeroplanes) caterpillars have horns on the head and some hairy warts along the back,
  • NYMPHALINAE (Nymphs & Admirals) caterpillars are also covered in spiky branched hairs,
  • SATYRINAE (Satyrs & Browns) caterpillars have a head which sometimes has a forked top, and also have a forked tail.

    However most of the common names of the subfamilies and species in NYMPHALIDAE seem to be derived from considerations of the adult Butterflies.

    The "Browns" are probably so-named simply because their basic wing colour is brown!

    "Fritillary" is from the Latin: "fritillus" meaning "dice box". In Roman times, such dice boxes were embellished with checkered patterns, and the butterflies in this group have checkered black and brown patterns on the wings.

    The "Satyrs", "Nymphs" and "Danaids" may have been named for their similarities to legendary and mythical figures.

    The "Satyrs" in Greek mythology were the attendants of Bacchus, God of Wine and Revelry. They were grotesque spirits who danced about in woodland glades, and had the head and torso of a man, but the lower half of a goat. The group of NYMPHALIDAE called "Satyrs" are brown, have prominent eyespots, and are generally found in woodland. So perhaps they were so-named because of their woodland haunts, or perhaps because with their eyespots, they looked like grotesque heads.

    The flight of the "Nymphs" is rapid and graceful, and their wings are usually brightly coloured These features together may well be considered reminiscent of the Nymphs in Ancient Greek Mythology.

    In contrast: "Danaid" describes the daughters of the king of Argos. They killed their husbands on their wedding night, and for this crime were condemned to the endless and futile task of filling sieve-like vessels with water. The adult Caterpillars and butterflies of this subfamily are poisonous, and the adults have a slow and heavy flight. Whether "Danaids" are named for their slow and heavy flight or because many contain poisons is unclear.

    The pupae of many NYMPHALIDAE species hang vertically by tiny anal hooks from a silken pad (cremaster), which is very distinctive. Other families, if they have a cremaster, tend to stand on it, rather than dangle from it. For some of the Browns, pupation occurs in the ground, and the pupa remains unattached to anything.

    The 82 Australian species in NYMPHALIDAE are:

    Acraea andromacha : Glasswing
    Acraea terpsicore : Tawny Coster

    Apaturina erminea : Turquoise Emperor

    Argynnina cyrila : Cyril's Brown
    Argynnina hobartia : Hobart Brown

    Argynnis hyperbius : Laced Fritillary

    Cethosia cydippe : Red Lacewing
    Cethosia penthesilea : Orange Lacewing

    Charaxes latona : Orange Emperor
    Charaxes sempronius : Tailed Emperor

    Cupha prosope : Australian Rustic

    Danaus affinis : Black & White Tiger
    Danaus chrysippus : Lesser Wanderer
    Danaus genutia : Orange Tiger
    Danaus petilia : Australian Lesser Wanderer
    Danaus plexippus : Wanderer or Monarch

    Doleschallia bisaltide : Australian Leafwing

    Elymnias agondas : Palmfly

    Euploea alcathoe : Striped Black Crow
    Euploea algea : Long-Branded Blue Crow
    Euploea batesii
    Euploea climena
    Euploea core : Oleander Butterfly or Common Crow
    Euploea darchia : Darwin Crow
    Euploea modesta
    Euploea sylvester : Two-Brand Crow
    Euploea tulliolus : Eastern Brown Crow
    Euploea usipetes

    Geitoneura acantha : Eastern Ringed Xenica
    Geitoneura klugii : Klug's Xenica
    Geitoneura minyas : Western Xenica

    Heteronympha banksii : Banks' Brown
    Heteronympha cordace : Bright Eyed Brown
    Heteronympha merope : Common Brown
    Heteronympha mirifica : Wonder Brown
    Heteronympha paradelpha : Spotted Brown
    Heteronympha penelope : Shouldered Brown
    Heteronympha solandri : Solander's Brown

    Hypocysta adiante : Orange Ringlet
    Hypocysta angustata : Black & White Ringlet
    Hypocysta euphemia : Rock Ringlet
    Hypocysta irius : Northern Ringlet
    Hypocysta metirius : Common Brown Ringlet
    Hypocysta pseudirius : Dingy Ringlet

    Hypolimnas alimena : Blue-banded Eggfly
    Hypolimnas anomala
    Hypolimnas bolina : Common Eggfly
    Hypolimnas misippus : Diadem

    Junonia erigone : Northern Argus
    Junonia hedonia : Brown Soldier
    Junonia orithya : Blue Argus
    Junonia villida : Meadow Argus

    Lexias aeropa

    Libythea geoffroy : Australian Beak

    Melanitis leda : Evening Brown

    Mycalesis perseus : Dingy Bush Brown
    Mycalesis sirius : Cedar Bush Brown
    Mycalesis terminus : Orange Bush Brown

    Mynes geoffroyi : White Nymph

    Neptis praslini : Black & White Aeroplane

    Nesoxenica leprea : Leprea Brown

    Oreixenica correae : Correa Brown
    Oreixenica kershawi : Striped Xenica
    Oreixenica lathoniella : Common Silver Xenica
    Oreixenica latialis : Alpine Silver Xenica
    Oreixenica orichora : Spotted Alpine Xenica
    Oreixenica ptunarra : Ptunarra Brown

    Orsotriaena medus : Nigger

    Pantoporia consimilis : Orange Aeroplane
    Pantoporia venilia : Cape York Aeroplane

    Phaedyma shepherdi : Common Aeroplane

    Phalanta phalantha : Leopard

    Taenaris artemis

    Tellervo zoilus : Cairns Hamadryad

    Tirumala hamata : Blue Tiger

    Tisiphone abeona : Swordgrass Brown
    Tisiphone helena : Helena Brown

    Vagrans egista : Australian Vagrant

    Vanessa cardui : Painted Lady
    Vanessa itea : Australian Yellow Admiral
    Vanessa kershawi : Australian Painted Lady

    Vindula arsinoe : The Cruiser

    Yoma sabina : The Lurcher

    Ypthima arctous : Dingy Ring

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 4 October 2011, 13 November 2018, 16 March 2019)