Butterfly of the Month - February 2022
Varied Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina)
The Varied Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina) is a fascinating butterfly by appearance alone. Males and females differ in colours and wing patterns. The upper wing side of the male has large white spots surrounded by a blue or sometimes mauve fringe on otherwise dark brown wings . Light reflection lets the colour change in strength. The female is quite a phenomenon appears in varying colours as well as colour intensity) and with patterns changing appearance. Typical examples of the adult butterflies are depicted here. However, according to Michael F. Braby there exist ‘at least six female polymorphic forms, with intermediate forms; size and brightness also vary seasonally’. The butterfly most certainly deserves its common name. Braby’s The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia 2nd edition (2019) shows depictions of varieties.
Because of appearance and also size (wingspan for male 76mm, female 86mm) it’s a butterfly you can’t miss. The males are very territorial and perch 1m to 2m above the ground, defending their patch quite aggressively. Females tend to fly close to the ground on the lookout for low growing larval host plants such as the native ones common for Brisbane: Love Flower (Pseuderanthemum variable), Lesser Joyweed (Alternanthera denticulata), Persicaria spp, Karamat (Hygrophila angustifolia). They have also been observed to feed and survive on Native Mulberry (Pipturus argenteus).
Eggs are laid on the underside of leaves, singly or in loose clusters. Larvae often hide not far from their host plant during the day, returning to the plant a night for feeding.
Brisbane is fortunate. We may observe this beautiful butterfly throughout the year.
Images: HO-Hemant Ogale - CC BY-SA 4.0; JG-Jutta Godwin; SA-Sylvia Alexander;V.V.-Viren Vaz - CC BY-SA 2.5