Danaid Eggfly - Hypolimnas misipus, Linnaeus

Home | Ecological zones | Butterflies | Larval food plants | Nectar food plants | Dragonflies | Moths | Other insects | Links | Sightings | Glossary |

male Danaid Eggfly

A medium sized Nymphalid with a wingspan of 65-75 mm. The sexes are dissimilar. Both sexes have distinctly wavy wing margins.

The males are sooty black above with two oval white patches, one on the forewing and the other on the hind wing. There is another smaller white patch below the apex of the forewing. All of them are surrounded by a gorgeous iridescent royal blue band which also extends partway towards the center of the white patches. The undersides are a beautiful rusty brown with white bands towards the center of each wing.

The female has two forms, both of which are excellent mimics of the Plain Tiger. The common form is tawny brown with a black apex and a narrow white band below it. The rest of the wing is relatively unmarked except for a black spot towards the front margin of the hind wing near vein 7. The underside has 2 black spots on the hind wing.

The second form inaria is quite rare in the island and does not have the black band below the apex of the forewing, but is otherwise is similar to the normal form. Interestingly, this form also mimics the Plain Tiger, but it mimics the equally rare form of the Plain Tiger, dorripus, quite an extraordinary case of co-evolution. 

Similar species
Male Great Eggfly - A much larger species and though the upperside looks very similar, the underside is a pale brown without any of the rich brown colour of the Danaid Eggfly.

Plain Tiger - It has black markings at the center of the hind wing and has smooth wing margins, not wavy.

Status, distribution and habitat
It occurs below 2000 feet elevation and is commonest in the dry and intermediate zones. It is most abundant with the onset of the north-east monsoon. It prefers open scrub jungle and well-lit openings. It is common on the coastal dunes and thorn scrub at Hambantota during the north-east monsoon when Asystasia gangetica comes up in profusion. The female is less abundant than the male and is also frequently misidentified due to its resemblance to the Plain Tiger. Hence its 'rarity'.

The male has a strong flight and often settles on vegetation close to the ground, on bushes or small trees. From such vantage points, it gives chase to passing butterflies to check out for females, often returning to the same perch or one close by if courtship fails. It remains in the same location for a few days before moving on in search of more suitable locations. It seems to take no notice of flowers. 

The female behaviour is quite different. It wanders about a great deal in search of its larval food plant or mates, and is rarely seen in the company of the males, except during courtship and mating. Although its flight is slow and leisurely like that of the Plain Tiger, it flies much lower to the ground. When alarmed, it reverts to a typical fast nymphalid fight to escape its enemies.

Early stages
The larvae feed on plants belonging to the family Acanthaceae. Portulaca oleraceae and Asystasia gangetica are the most widely used plants.

Previous  |  Next

Danaidae | Satyridae | Amathusiidae | Nymphalidae | Acraeidea | Libytheidae | Riodinidae | Lycaenidae | Pieridae | Papilionidae | Hesperidae