The Chocolate Soldier - Junonia iphita, Cramer

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Male perched and waiting for females

Mating pair of Chocolate Soldier

Wingspan of 50-60 mm. A very appropriately named chocolate brown butterfly. The sexes are difficult to tell apart in flight. When settled, the female is easily identified by its white markings on the oblique line on the underside of the hind wing (image above).

There is a series of ocelli towards the outer margin of both wings on both surfaces, but most of them are faintly marked. The underside ground color is darker with bands of  wavy lines that vary greatly between dry season and wet season forms.

Similar species

Status, distribution and habitat
It is a very common, widely distributed butterfly in the island and is seen throughout the year. Its populations peak before the south-west monsoon. It joins migratory flights. Waste places and vegetation on either side of gravel roadsides are surely its favorite habitats.

It can be seen day after day around the same location, perching on a favorite spot and making frequent forays to check out passing butterflies. It is not a butterfly of the high canopy or dense forest and is usually seen at or near ground level or settled on low bushes or the ground, often basking in the sun. It regularly nectars on flowers and some of its favorites are Lantana, Duranta and Eupatorium, the accidental South American introduction that has gone wild in Sri Lanka. Though the undersides of this butterfly can provide excellent camouflage against a background of leaf litter, it seldom employs this technique for concealment. 

Early stages
The larvae feed on members of the Acanthaceae. During migrations, the female frequently lay eggs on twigs or dried up leaves in the vicinity of the host plant at ground level rather than on the leaf itself. But on hatching, the larvae successfully find their way to their host plant.

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