Delias nigrina (Fabricius, 1775)
Black Jezabel
(one synonym : Papilio lewini Thon, 1828)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Delias nigrina

This Caterpillar is dark green with two rows of yellow spots, each sprouting a white hair. The head is black. The caterpillars feed gregariously on various species of Mistletoes (LORANTHACEAE) including :

  • Sheoak Mistletoe ( Amyema cambagei ),
  • Erect Mistletoe ( Amyema congener ),
  • Box Mistletoe ( Amyema miquelii ),
  • Grey Mistletoe ( Amyema quandang ),
  • Curved Mistletoe ( Dendrophthoe curvata ),
  • Orange Mistletoe ( Dendrophthoe glabrescens ),
  • Long Flowered Mistletoe ( Dendrophthoe vitellina ),
  • Coast Mistletoe ( Muellerina celastroides ), and
  • Creeping Mistletoe ( Muellerina eucalyptoides ).

    The effects of temperature on the development of the caterpillar has been studied.

    Delias nigrina
    (Photo: courtesy of Chris Greenaway, Kyogle, New South Wales)

    It pupates on the foodplant or nearby. The pupae are orange with black spikes and a pair on long white horns on the head.

    Delias nigrina
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The upper sides of the male adult butterflies are white with black tips containing white spots on the forewings, and narrow black margins around the hindwings.

    Delias nigrina
    Male, showing underside
    (Photo: by Kel Harding, courtesy of Elizabeth Harding, Maleny, Queensland)

    The females on top are grey with wide black edges, which contain white spots near the forewing tips.

    Delias nigrina
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    Underneath, both sexes are black with a yellow band on the forewing, and an irregular broken red loop around each hindwing. The adults have a wingspan of about 4 cms.

    Delias nigrina
    (Photo: courtesy of Fonzilla)

    An unusual form with yellow underneath occurs occasionally.

    Delias nigrina
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Walker, Blue Mountains, New South Wales)

    The eggs of this species are barrel-shaped with about 16 ribs. Each is yellow and has a height of about 0.15 cm. They are laid in groups on the foodplant.

    The species occurs along the eastern seaboard of Australia, from

  • Queensland, through
  • New South Wales, and
  • Australian Capital Territory, to
  • Victoria.

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 336-337.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta,
    Volume 3, Part 1 (1793), p. 200, No. 625.

    Peter Hendry,
    A "new" host plant for the Black Jezebel (Delias nigrina) butterfly,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 48 (March 2008), pp. 15-16.

    Ross Kendall,
    A new host plant for the Black or Common Jezebel butterfly (Delias nigrina),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 62 (September 2011), p. 26,

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 224.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 1 May 2009, 29 December 2023)