Junonia villida (Fabricius, 1787)
Meadow Argus
(previously known as Precis villida)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Junonia villida
(Photo: copyright of Brett and Marie Smith, at Ellura Sanctuary, South Australia)

The Meadow Argus Caterpillar is black or brown, and spiky. The spikes are short, thick, and branched. There is even a pair on its black head. Small blue-white spots dot the surface, and there are larger whitish marks underneath. There may also be yellow areas at the base of the spikes. There is a narrow yellow neck between the head and thorax.

Junonia villida
(Photo: copyright of Brett and Marie Smith, at Ellura Sanctuary, South Australia)

This caterpillar feeds on many plants of the garden and the roadside, both native and introduced, including :

  • Karamat (Hygrophila angustifolia, ACANTHACEAE),
  • Spreading Nut Heads (Sphaeromorphaea australis, ASTERACEAE),
  • Dwarf Convolvulus (Evolvulus alsinoides, CONVOLVULACEAE),
  • Sweet Scabious (Scabiosa atropurpurea, DIPSACACEAE),
  • Centuary (Schenkia spicata, GENTIANACEAE),
  • Fairy Fanflower (Scaevola aemula, GOODENIACEAE),
  • Angelon (Angelonia salicariifolia, PLANTAGINACEAE),
  • Purslane (Portulaca oleracea, PORTULACACEAE), and
  • Verbena (Verbena species, VERBENACEAE).

    When not feeding, the caterpillar hides under a leaf or at the base of the foodplant. The caterpillar can mature in about two weeks, growing to a length of about 4 cms.

    Junonia villida
    (Photo: courtesy of Nadine Brown, Swan Reach, South Australia)

    It pupates on the underside of a stem or leaf of its foodplant, dangling by its cremaster to do so. The pupa is dark grey with white mottling. It is rough and has a knobbly dorsal surface. It has the appearance of a dead crumpled leaf as it swings with the plant in the wind. Its length is about 1.5 cms. The pupal period can be ten days, in February in Melbourne, Victoria.

    Junonia villida
    (Photo: courtesy of Harold McQueen, Goodna, Queensland)

    The butterfly emerges after about two weeks. The male and female are similar in appearance. Their wings have upper surfaces that are brown, with orange and white markings, and blue eye spots. The latter are blue spots surrounded by a dark brown ring, which is in turn enclosed by an orange circle. There is a large eye spot at the outer margin of each forewing, and two smaller eye spots on each hindwing. The costa of each forewing also bears a small blue bar bordered on each side by orange.

    Junonia villida
    (Photo: courtesy of Harold McQueen, Goodna, Queensland)

    Underneath, the wings have similar markings to those on their upper surfaces, but against a pale brown background. The butterflies have a wingspan up to 5 cms.

    Junonia villida
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of Emma Moysey, Ecology Australia Pty. Ltd.)

    The butterflies are readily attracted to flowers where they are very easy to catch, and are often seen sunning themselves on the ground with their wings open. The butterfly is very hardy. It has been reported to winter in the Flinders Ranges (South Australia) during weather that was below freezing at nighttime.

    Junonia villida
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Walker, Eltham, Victoria)

    The female lays her eggs singly on the leaf of a foodplant. Eggs laid in captivity hatched in about four days. The eggs are pale yellow or green, and spherical, with a height of about 0.8 mm. They have a dozen or so vertical white ribs separating areas with 30 or so microscopic horizontal undulations.

    Junonia villida
    Australia Post 1998

    It is widely distributed across the south Pacific, including:

  • Bali,
  • Cook Islands,
  • Fiji,
  • Java,
  • New Guinea,
  • Samoa,

    and subspecies calybe Godart, 1819, is found throughout Australia, including

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania, and
  • South Australia.

    Junonia villida
    Cocos Islands 1972
    Junonia villida
    Tuvalu 1981
    Junonia villida
    Kiribati, 1994

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 574-576.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Classi VI. Glossata,
    Mantisssa Insectorum,
    Volume 2 (1787), p. 35, No. 366.

    Lois Hughes and Wesley Jenkinson,
    Meadow Argus (Junonia villida)(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) and,
    Life history notes on the Meadow Argus, Junonia villida (Fabricius, 1787) Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 77 (June 2015), pp. 1, 4-6, 7-11, 42,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 31, 59.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, pp. 228, 229.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 2.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 20 August 2011, 18 December 2016, 24 June 2020, 29 September 2021)