Heteronympha penelope Waterhouse, 1937
Shouldered Brown
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Hetronympha penelope
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of Museum Victoria)

The Caterpillar of this species feeds by night, hiding during the daytime at the base of its foodplant. It feed on various grasses (POACEAE) such as :

  • Slender Wallaby Grass ( Austrodanthonia penicillata ),
  • Velvet Wallaby Grass ( Austrodanthonia pilosa ),
  • Snow Grass ( Microlaena stipoides ),
  • Slender Tussock Grass ( Poa tenera ), and
  • Kangaroo Grass ( Themeda triandra ).

    Only one caterpillar is usually found in any one grass tussock. The early instars of this Caterpillar are green, with a black head. Later instars are brown with a darker lines along the body. They have a round brown head, and a forked tail. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 3 cms.

    The pupa is mottled brown and is formed in the debris at the base of its foodplant. Its length is about 2 cms.

    Hetronympha penelope
    (Photo: courtesy of E.D. Edwards, from "Butterflies of Australia" by M.F. Braby)

    The adults are dark brown with white and orange markings. There is one eyespot on each fore wing, and two or three one each hind wing.

    Hetronympha penelope
    Heteronympha penelope panope
    (Specimen: courtesy of Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The undersides are similar but paler. The adults have a wing span of about 5 cms. Another mountain insect, it flies at altitudes above 700m. The males are typical of the genus and are quite active. Their preferred habitat is the more open eucalypt woodland where they can by locally quite common at times.

    Hetronympha penelope
    Heteronympha penelope panope
    (Specimen: courtesy of Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The species is found in the south-eastern quarter of Australia as several races :

  • alope Waterhouse, 1937, from southern Victoria and South Australia,
  • diemeni Waterhouse, 1937, from eastern Tasmania,
  • maraia Tindale, 1952, from Grampian mountains in Victoria,
  • panope Waterhouse, 1937, from western Tasmanaia,
  • penelope from the mountains of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and
  • sterope Waterhouse, 1937, from Victoria.

    The species is unusual in that the fertilized female of this butterfly acquires a genital sphragis.

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 512-513.

    Gustavus Athol Waterhouse,
    On Heteronympha philerope Boisd.,
    Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales,
    Volume 62 (1937), pp. 256-258.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 11 October 2012, 20 September 2013, 13 March 2015)