Butterflies of the Indian subcontinent
Great Eggfly
Hypolimnas bolina  LINNAEUS, 1758
subfamily - NYMPHALINAE
Hypolimnas bolina jacintha male, Chilapata, West Bengal, India   Adrian Hoskins
The genus Hypolimnas comprises of about 27 species, of which 12 are restricted to the Afrotropical region ( including 2 Madagascan endemics ). Most of the remainder are found in various parts of the Oriental and Australian regions. The exception is misippus, which has a huge range encompassing Florida ( USA ), the Caribbean islands, northern South America, most of Africa, much of tropical and subtropical Asia from India to Japan, and south across Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua to Australia.
Many members of the genus are marked with large colourful patches of blue, white or orange, and are Batesian mimics of the Danainae - a subfamily of butterflies demonstrated to be unpalateable or poisonous to birds. The female of Hypolimnas misippus for example is a perfect mimic in colour, pattern and behaviour of the Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus; while the female of Hypolimnas bolina is a mimic of the Common Crow Euploea core.
The popular name 'Eggfly' refers to the extraordinary parental behaviour of several members of the genus including antilope, anomala and bolina, which have a unique way of safeguarding their offspring. Prior to laying any eggs they they inspect various leaves to ensure that there are no ants present. The eggs of antilope and anomala are laid in large batches on the upper surface of a leaf, while those of bolina are usually laid in very small batches on the under surface. After ovipositing the females then stand guard over their eggs, forming a protective umbrella to shield them from parasitoid wasps. They remain in this position until all the eggs have hatched and the caterpillars have dispersed, by which time the protective female has usually died in situ.
Hypolimnas bolina is found throughout India. It is an extremely widespread species, found also in south Arabia, across south-east Asia to Fiji and the Solomon Islands, and is also found in Australia and New Zealand.
This species is found in open lightly forested and scrubby habitats at elevations between sea level and about 1000m.
The eggs are pale glassy green with prominent vertical ridges. The larvae hatch after only 4 days. They are polyphagous, feeding on numerous genera of Acanthaceae, Urticaceae, Commelinaceae, Moraceae, Convolvulaceae, Malvaceae, Fabaceae, Portulaceaea and Polygonaceae. When fully grown the larva is black, covered with long branched tawny spines. The head and the anal segment are orange. They are commonly infected by Wolbachia - a bacteria that kills males exclusively. On Samoa the effects of the bacteria had reduced males to only 1% of the population by 2001, but a study in 2007 reported that in the space of a year ( 10 generations ), the caterpillars had evolved an immunity to Wolbachia allowing the male population to increase to 40%. The pupa of bolina is greyish brown with short thorny tubercles, and is suspended by the cremaster from a stem or leaf.
Adult behaviour
Males perch on saplings and bushes in forest edge habitats where they await passing females. Both sexes nectar at a wide range of arboreal and herbaceous flowers. Males also imbibe mineralised moisture from urine-soaked patches of bare ground.


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