Eurema hecabe (Linnaeus, 1758)
Large Grass-yellow
(one synonym : Terias hecabeoides Ménétriés, 1855)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Eurema hecabe

This Caterpillar is initially a uniform pale green.

Eurema hecabe

Later instars are green with a white band along each side edged with yellow, and are covered in short hairs. The caterpillars grow to a length of about 3 cms. Their foodplants include ;

  • Glossy Shower ( Senna surattensis, CAESALPINIACEAE ),
  • Australian Indigo ( Indigofera australis, FABACEAE ),
  • Yellow Pea Bush ( Sesbania cannabina, FABACEAE ),
  • Glory Wattle ( Acacia spectabilis, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Silk Tree ( Albizia julibrissin, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Wild Tamarind ( Leucaena leucocephala, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Willgar ( Breynia oblongifolia, PHYLLANTHACEAE ), and
  • Long-Stalked Phyllanthus ( Phyllanthus tenellus, PHYLLANTHACEAE ).

    Eurema hecabe

    The pupae are held by cremaster and girdle to a stem of the food plant, and is green, and has a length of about 2 cms. It has a pointed head, and a ventral keel.

    Eurema hecabe
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The upper surface of each wing of the adult butterfly is yellow with a black band around the edge, which has a characteristic double indentation on each forewing. The black edge to each hindwing is quite narrow, especially in the males.

    Eurema hecabe
    (Photo: courtesy of Ross Kendall,
    Butterfly Encounters, Indooroopilly, Queensland)

    The undersides are yellow with variable brown markings. The brown markings vary with season, being fainter in the wet season. The wingspan is about 4 cms.

    The butterflies may often be seen flying slowly close to the ground, particularly over grass, hence their common name, which is an odd behaviour because the larvae do not eat grass! The butterflies are important pollinators of the Arrowhead Violet (Viola betonicifolia) which is the foodplant of Argyreus hyperbius.

    The species is noteworthy for having the most synonyms (32) of all the named species of Australian Lepidoptera listed in the Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia, signifying 32 redescriptions of the same species or subspecies in the scientific literature.

    Eurema hecabe
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of , Ken Walker, Cooktown, Queensland)

    The eggs are laid singly on the upper side of a foodplant leaf, and are off-white, spindle-shaped, and finely ribbed. The eggs have a height of about 1.3 mm.

    Eurema hecabe
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The species is found as various subspecies over much of Africa and south-east Asia, including :

  • India,
  • Japan,
  • Kenya,
  • New Guinea,
  • Samoa,
  • Thailand,

    as well as the northern half of Australia, including

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales, and
  • South Australia.

    This species is featured at Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. Butterflies of this species may be purchased for release at weddings etc.

    Eurema hecabe

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 307-308.

    Wesley Jenkinson,
    Life History Notes on the Large Grass-yellow, Eurema hecabe (Linnaeus, 1758) Lepidoptera: Pieridae,
    Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club Inc.,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 86, September 2017, pp. 27-30.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, p. 26.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 470, No. 74.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 225.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 5 January 2010, 29 December 2023)