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Hypolimnas bolina

The Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina), also called the Blue Moon Butterfly in New Zealand or Common Eggfly,[1] is a species of nymphalid butterfly.


Male Hypolimnas bolina nerina in my garden near Cooktown, Queensland in 2008

Race bolina[edit]

H. bolina is a black-bodied butterfly with a wingspan of about 70–85 millimetres (2.8–3.3 in). The species has a high degree of sexual dimorphism. The female is mimetic with multiple morphs.[2]


The upper side of the wings is jet black, offset with three pairs of white spots, two on the forewing and one on the hind. These spots are surrounded by purple iridescence. In addition, the upper side of the hindwing bears a series of small white dots.


The upper side of the wings of the female is a brownish black and does not have any spots like those of the male. The edges bear white markings which are similar to those of the Common Indian Crow.


H. bolina is found in Madagascar in the west, through to South and Southeast Asia, South Pacific islands (French Polynesia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu), and occurs in parts of Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.


H. bolina is a fairly common butterfly found in lightly wooded country, deciduous forests, thick and moist scrub, and the greener parts of human habitats.


To the west the female is monomorphic, mimicking species of the oriental and Australasian danaid genus Euploea. Eastwards H. bolina is frequently polymorphic and most forms are then non-mimetic. In areas where it resembles Euploea the butterfly has usually been designated a Batesian mimic.

Life cycle and ecology[edit]

A male H. bolina in the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

H. bolina is known for maternal care, with the females guarding leaves where eggs have been laid. Males are also very territorial and site fidelity increases with age.[3] Territories that enhance the detection of females are preferred.[4] The female hovers over a plant to check for ants which will eat her eggs. After selecting a plant which has no ants on it, she lays at least one but often two to five eggs on the undersides of the leaves.

Host plants[edit]

Race bolina breeds on Fleuria interrupta, Sida rhombifolia,[5] Elatostemma cuneatum, Portulaca oleracea, Laportea interrupta,[6] Triumfetta pentandra,[7] and Asystasia species.

Other hosts include Elatostema cuneatum, Fleurya interrupta, Pseuderanthemum variabile, and Synedrella nodiflora. They are also known to feed on Urtica dioica and Malva spp.


The eggs are a pale, glassy green with longitudinal ridges except on the top.


Caterpillar of race bolina

After about four days the eggs hatch. The caterpillars immediately disperse. They are black with an orange head. The last segment is also orange. The head bears a pair of long branched black horns. The body surface is also covered with long, branched, orangish black spines. These spines look whitish and transparent immediately after moulting, but soon become the usual orange. In later instars the spiracles are surrounded by thin, dirty orange rings. Infection by Wolbachia bacteria is known to exclusively kill male specimens.[1][8]


Pupa of race bolina

The pupa is suspended by just one point. It is brown with a grey tinge on the wings. The abdominal segments have distinct tubercles. The surface of the pupa is rough. The butterfly emerges after seven to eight days as pupae (female development is always a bit longer).

Recent evolutionary changes[edit]

On the Samoan Islands of Upolu and Savai'i, a parasite (probably Wolbachia) had been killing the male members of Hypolimnas bolina. The problem was so severe that by the year 2001, males made up only 1% of the population. However, in 2007, it was reported that within a span of just 10 generations (less than a year), the males had evolved to develop immunity to the parasite, and the male population increased to nearly 40%.[9]


Listed alphabetically.[10]

  • H. b. bolina (Linnaeus, 1758) – (Sumatra, Java, Lesser Sunda Is., W.Borneo, Sulawesi, Salayar, Kabaena, Galla, Banggai, Sula, Maluku, New Guinea, Solomon Is., Australia, New Caledonia)
  • H. b. constans (Butler, 1875) – (Tasmania?)
  • H. b. enganica Fruhstorfer, 1904 – (Engano I.)
  • H. b. gigas (Oberthür, 1879) – (Sangihe)
  • H. b. incommoda Butler, 1879
  • H. b. inconstans Butler, 1873 – (Navigator Is.)
  • H. b. jacintha (Drury, 1773)
  • H. b. jaluita Fruhstorfer, 1903
  • H. b. kezia (Butler) – (Formosa)
  • H. b. kraimoku (Eschscholtz, 1821) – (Lifu)
  • H. b. labuana Butler, 1879 – (Labuan)
  • H. b. lisianassa (Cramer, 1779) – (Moluccas)
  • H. b. listeri Butler, 1888 – (Christmas I.)
  • H. b. montrouzieri (Butler) – (Woodlark, Fergusson, Trobriand Is.)
  • H. b. naresii Butler, 1883 – (Fiji)
  • H. b. nerina (Fabricius, 1775) – (Timor - Kai, Aru, Waigeu, West Irian - Papua, N.Australia - E.Victoria, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Is., New Zealand)
  • H. b. pallescens (Butler) – (Fiji)
  • H. b. philippensis (Butler, 1874) – (Philippines)
  • H. b. pulchra (Butler) – (New Caledonia)
  • H. b. rarik Eschscholtz, 1821) – (Lifu)


  1. ^ a b Liza Gross (2006). "Conflict within the genome: evolving defenses to suppress the male killers". PLoS Biology 4 (9): e308. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040308. 
  2. ^ Cyril Clarke & P. M. Sheppard (1975). "The genetics of the mimetic butterfly Hypolimnas bolina (L.)". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 272 (917): 229–265. doi:10.1098/rstb.1975.0084. JSTOR 2417483. PMID 4830. 
  3. ^ Darrell J. Kemp (2001). "Age-related site fidelity in the territorial butterfly Hypolimnas bolina (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)". Australian Journal of Entomology 40 (1): 65–68. doi:10.1046/j.1440-6055.2001.00199.x. 
  4. ^ Darrell J. Kemp & Ronald L. Rutowski (2001). "Spatial and temporal patterns of territorial mate locating behaviour in Hypolimnas bolina (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)" (PDF). Journal of Natural History 35 (9): 1399–1411. doi:10.1080/002229301750384329. 
  5. ^ K. Kunte (2006). "Additions to the known larval host plants of Indian butterflies". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 103 (1): 119–121. 
  6. ^ T. R. Bell (1910). "Common Butterflies of the Plains of India". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 20 (2): 287–289. 
  7. ^ A. Rajagopalan (2005). "A new food plant of the Great Eggfly". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 102 (3): 355. 
  8. ^ E. A. Dyson, M. K. Kamath & G. D. Hurst (2002). "Wolbachia infection associated with all-female broods in Hypolimnas bolina (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae): evidence for horizontal transmission of a butterfly male killer". Heredity 88 (3): 166–171. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6800021. 
  9. ^ Sylvain Charlat, Emily A. Hornett, James H. Fullard, Neil Davies, George K. Roderick, Nina Wedell & Gregory D. D. Hurst (2007). "Extraordinary flux in sex ratio". Science 317 (5835): 214. doi:10.1126/science.1143369. PMID 17626876. 
  10. ^ Hypolimnas,


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