Melanitis leda (Linnaeus, 1758)
Evening Brown
(erroneously: Hipio banksia)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Melanitis leda
(Photo: courtesy of Stephanie Noverraz, taken at Nimbin, New South Wales)

The Caterpillar of this species feeds on various members of the Grass family (POACEAE), including :

  • Golden Beard Grass ( Chrysopogon fallax ),
  • Giant Spear Crass ( Heteropogon triticeus ),
  • Cogon Grass ( Imperata cylindrica ),
  • Southern Cut Grass ( Leersia hexandra ),
  • Molasses Grass ( Melinis minutiflora ),
  • Rice ( Oryza sativa ),
  • Sugar Cane ( Saccharum officinarum ),
  • Millet ( Sorghum vulgare ), and
  • Kangaroo Grass ( Themeda triandra ).

    Melanitis leda

    Caterpillars have also been found on members of the Sedge family ( CYPERACEAE ), including :

  • Tall Sedge ( Carex appressa ), and
  • Creek Carex ( Carex polyantha ).

    The Caterpillae is cylindrical, and green with white spots. It has two dark reddish hairy horns on its head, and a pair of horns on its tail. The Caterpillars feed in daylight near a leaf tip, often in a small group. They rest on the underside of a leaf along a vein.

    Melanitis leda
    Caterpillar preparing to pupate
    (Photo: courtesy of Nick Monaghan, Tewantin, Queensland)

    The pupa is smooth and green. It hangs by a silk cremaster from the foodplant. Its length is about 2 cms.

    Melanitis leda

    The adult has two forms: the winter (dry) season form is dark brown with an orange patch containing double eyespot near the tip of each forewing. These is usually a single eyespot on the top of each hindwing. Each wing has a recurved margin. The wingspan is about 7 cms.

    Melanitis leda
    winter form
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The summer (wet) season form is paler.

    Melanitis leda
    summer form
    oops: a bird must have snapped at a bit of its wing!
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The underside (of both forms) is variable: generally a cryptic brown with a number of small eyespots.

    Melanitis leda
    (Photo: courtesy of Nick Monaghan, Tewantin, Queensland)

    The eggs are spherical and pale yellow, and have a diameter of about 1 mm. They are laid at dusk in groups of one to five on the underside of young foodplant leaves.

    Melanitis leda
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, Upper Burnett, Queensland)

    Like many adult insects, they like to drink sap exudung from damaged trees

    Melanitis leda
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of Annie Rowe, South Maclean, Queensland)

    Races of this species are found over much of the world, for example :

  • Cook Islands,
  • Ghana,
  • Guam,
  • India,
  • Japan,
  • Madagascar,
  • Mozambique, and
  • Thailand.

    Melanitis leda
    Cape Verde Islands, 1982.

    The race found in Australia is bankia (Fabricius, 1775) which occurs in:

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

    Melanitis leda
    blue underside form
    (Photo: copyright of Rob Downer, Oxley Common Creek, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 468-469.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 18, 61.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 474, No. 102.

    John Moss,
    Note on the Evening Brown butterfly (Melanitis leda) hostplants and clarification of the correct name for the Carex hostplant of the skipper butterfly the Southern Sedge-darter (Telicota eurychlora),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Newsletter Issue 45 (June 2007), pp. 7-8.

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

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 29 April 2010, 10 December 2013, 11 April 2018, 24 June 2020, 12 April 2021)