Tirumala hamata (W.S.Macleay, 1826)
Blue Tiger
(one synonym : Danais australis Blanchard, 1853)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Tirumala hamata
(Photo: courtesy of Helen Schwencke, from Create More Butterflies)

The Caterpillars are grey, with black bands between segments, and orange lateral lines. The head is black with white markings. The caterpillars have a pair long filaments on both the thorax and the last abdominal segment. The caterpillars feed on various jungle vines from the family APOCYNACEAE including :

  • Butterfly Vine ( Cynanchum leptolepis ),
  • Chalk Vine ( Heterostemma acuminatum ),
  • Hairy Silkpod ( Marsdenia velutina ),
  • Cork Vine ( Secamone elliptica ), and
  • Mangrove Milkweed ( Vincetoxicum carnosum ).

    (Photo: courtesy of Helen Schwencke, from Create More Butterflies)

    The pupa is green with 10 spots that are initially gold, but later turn to silver, and typically hung by its cremaster to a twig.

    Tirumala hamata
    (Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The wings of the adult butterflies are black with blue spots. They have a wingspan of about 7 cms. The butterflies may sometimes be seen scratching the leaves of special plants, including:

  • Blue Heliotrope ( Heliotropium amplexicaule ), and
  • Monkey Rope Vine ( Parsonia straminea ).

    They appear to suck chemicals from the plants, even wetting dead leaves and then sucking up the moisture.

    Tirumala hamata
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Walker, Mackay, Queensland)

    The eggs are bullet shaped and pale yellow, with a height of abot 2 mm, and a diameter of about 1 mm. The egg surface is covered by about 30 columns of about two dozen shallow microscopic pits. They are laid singly on young shoots of a foodplant.

    Tirumala hamata
    Male and Female pair
    (Photo: courtesy of David Johnston)

    The species is found over most of south-east Asia, including

  • Fiji,
  • India,
  • Java,
  • New Zealand,
  • Samoa,
  • Solomons,
  • Thailand,

    and including Australia in

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Lord Howe Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria, and
  • South Australia.

    Tirumala hamata

    The adult butterflies have been observed to live longer than five months. In Australia, the butterflies perform mass migrations to the south in some years, making a delightful spectacle.

    Tirumala hamata
    Tirumala hamata
    (Australia Post, 1981)
    (Samoa, 1986)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 591-592.

    Lois Hughes & Frank Jordan,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Newsletter Issue 32 (March 2004), p. 17.

    Wesley Jenkinson,
    Life history notes on the Blue Tiger, Tiramula hamata hamata (W.S. Macleay, 1820) Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 76 (March 2015), pp. 4-7,
    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. 6, 66.

    William Sharp Macleay,
    in Philip Parker King :
    Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia,
    Volume 2 (1826), Appendix B, p. 461, No. 147.

    Elly Scheermeyer,
    Overwintering of Three Australian Danaines: Tirumala hamata, Euploea tulliolus tulliolus and Euploea core corinna,
    in S. B. Malcolm and M.P. Zalucki (Eds),
    Biology and Conservation of the Monarch Butterfly,
    Natural History Museum of Los angeles County, Los Angeles 1993, pp. 345-354.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 9 May 2008, 16 September 2010, 12 December 2013, 26 January 2015, 20 October 2017, 30 October 2017, 6 August 2020, 26 September 2021)