Geitoneura acantha (Donovan, 1805)
Eastern Ringed Xenica
(erroneously: Tisiphone achanthe)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Geitoneura acantha
(Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

These Caterpillars are initially green, with a dark brown head. Later instars become brown with a green, brown, or pink head, and have dark dorsal and lateral lines. Both head and tail each have a pair of horns.

Geitoneura acantha
(Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of various Grasses ( POACEAE) including :

  • Snow Grass ( Microlaena stipoides ),
  • Grey Tussock Grass ( Poa sieberiana ),
  • Slender Tussock Grass ( Poa tenera ), and
  • Kangaroo Grass ( Themeda triandra ).

    Geitoneura acantha
    close-up of caterpillar head
    (Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

    The caterpillars hide in the base of the tussock leaves during daylight, feeding nocturnally on the tips of the leaves. They grow to a length of about 3 centimetres.

    The pupa is brown with dark markings, suspended from a cremaster, usually on a leaf or stem of the foodplant.

    Geitoneura acantha
    (Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Victoria)

    The adult butterflies have a wing span of about 4 cms. The upper surfaces of the wings are orange with dark brown markings, and an eyespot on each wing. The males have a grey-brown band across each forewing. The wingspan is about 4 cms.

    Geitoneura acantha
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The undersides are yellow with brown markings, and one eyespot on each forewing, and two on each hindwing. The butterflies normally rest with wings closed. The butterflies fly close to the ground and settle frequently, so using their camouflaged underside to avoid detection.

    Geitoneura acantha
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The eggs of this species are cream and spherical, with a diameter of about 0.8 mm. They are laid in groups of 1,2, or 3 on a foodplant leaf.

    Two sub-species have been recognised :

  • acantha in
    Queensland, and New South Wales, and Australian Capital Territory, and

  • ocrea (Guest, 1882) in
    Victoria, and South Australia.

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 502-503.

    Edward Donovan,
    General Illustration of Entomology,
    An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of New Holland, New Zealand, New Guinea, Otaheite and other Islands in the Indian, Southern and Pacific Oceans,
    London (1803), Part 1, pp. 105-106, and also Plate on p. 104.

    Wesley Jenkinson,
    Life history notes on the Ringed Xenica, Geitoneura acantha (Donovan, 1805) Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 74 (September 2014), pp. 22-25,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 28 October 2011, 20 September 2013, 18 September 2014, 15 March 2015, 3 January 2018, 17 June 2020)