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

Hetronympha penelope
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of Museums 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 ),
  • Snow Grass ( Microlaena stipoides ),
  • Slender Tussock Grass ( Poa tenera ),
  • Velvet Wallaby Grass ( Rytidosperma pilosum ), 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 dimorphic white and orange markings. There is one eyespot on each forewing near the wing-tip, and two or three one each hindwing. The forewings have a large dark spot in the cell.

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

    The males have a dark triangle from the base upto and including the dark spot in the cell.

    Hetronympha penelope
    (Specimen: courtesy of CSIRO Entomology)

    The undersides are similar but paler. The adults have a wing span of about 5 cms.

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

    This is another mountain insect, flying 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 be locally quite common at times.

    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,
  • panope Waterhouse, 1937, from western Tasmanaia,
  • penelope from the mountains of New South Wales, and Victoria, and South Australia.

    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, 17 June 2020)