Great Eggfly - Hypolimnas bolina, Linnaeus

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Male Great Eggfly

A large brown butterfly with a wingspan of 65-95 mm. The dry season forms are consistently  lighter coloured and larger than individuals from the the wet season. In the males, the oval white patches on the upper sides are suffused with a beautiful iridescent royal blue. It is striking when viewed in bright light and with the proper wing orientation. The females lack the bold white markings above, but have a steely blue streak below the apex towards the front margin.

The underside of both sexes are similar, but are very variable in the width of the bands and markings. The ground colour is light brown and there is a diffuse purplish band at the center of the hind wing which runs from the lower margin to the front margin. The width of the creamy submarginal band is much reduced in females, especially in the dry season.  

Similar species
Male Danaid Eggfly - It is a much smaller species and the upper sides are black or nearly so, but the rest of the markings are very similar. However, the underside is very different - it is a rusty brown with broad white bands.

Status, distribution and habitat
This is a widely distributed butterfly and commonest with the onset of the monsoonal rains. It is found in open spaces with scrub jungle, along forest roads in the wet zone or along hedges and fences in cultivated areas or plantations.

It is a strong flier, but the females mimic the behavior of the the Common Indian Crow and hence fly slower and more leisurely. However, it is capable of very swift flight when alarmed. The males are territorial and love to sit at a premium location along a forest path, or the opening to a glade, and spend much of their time waiting for females to come by. They frequently inspect those passing by going after them, but soon come back to take charge of the area. In the wet zone, the males love to perch on the dead leaves of the bracken fern commonly found on either side of gravel roads through forests and plantations. At such locations, it often searches out a concealed area with some shade and sits with its head pointing down, almost vertically (image above). On other occasions, the females prefer to sit on the underside of leaves with their wings closed over their backs, and take off suddenly on close approach. They frequent flowers for nectar but do not mud-sip or feed on rotting plant food sources.

Early stages
The larvae feed on Elatostema cuneatum and Fleurya interrupta.

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