Butterflies of Thailand, Malaysia & Borneo
Malayan Egg-fly
Hypolimnas anomala  WALLACE, 1869
subfamily - NYMPHALINAE

Hypolimnas anomala, male, Bukit Tapah, West Malaysia  Adrian Hoskins

The "Egg-fly" - a butterfly which stands guard over its eggs until they hatch.

Hypolimnas anomala and its "sister species" antilope are a fascinating pair of butterflies which have a unique way of protecting their offspring. They lay their eggs in large batches on the upper surface of leaves, and then stand guard over them, forming a protective umbrella to shield them from parasitoid wasps. They remain in this position until the eggs hatch and the tiny caterpillars have dispersed several days later. Quite how this behaviour came to "evolve" is a mystery which no one seems able to answer.....

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.
Hypolimnas anomala is another Euploea mimic. The female, which has a dazzling iridescent purple-blue sheen across the outer half of the forewings, mimics the male of Euploea mulciber, not only visually, but in terms of the microscopic structure of it's wing scales ( Saito, 2002 ). The male, as illustrated above, is more of a general purpose mimic - a bird could easily mistake it for any of the plainer Euploea species.
Hypolimnas anomala is found in Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Sulawesi, Timor, the Philippines, and around Darwin in northern Australia.
The Malayan Egg-fly is found in lowland rainforests at altitudes between sea level and about 300m, often in disturbed areas around forest villages.
The greenish-white eggs are barrel-shaped, with 14 prominent vertical ribs. They are laid in large batches on the upperside of leaves of the foodplants, which include the flowering herb Pipturus and probably other genera of Urticaceae.
The caterpillars are gregarious during their early instars, and feed diurnally. They are blackish in colour, with pale lines along the back and sides, and are covered in short multi-branched spines. When fully grown the larva is black, with a bright red head which bears a pair of long bristly black spines. Each body segment is armed with 6 bright orange multi-branched spines with conical bases.
The chrysalis is pale brown, with short spikes along its back, and in shape is similar to that of the Checkerspots and Fritillaries. It is suspended by the cremaster from a stem or from the underside of a leaf.
Adult behaviour
The male of this common species can often be seen walking about on damp ground, rapidly fanning its wings as it probes around for moisture. This behaviour instantly distinguishes the butterfly from Euploea males which are also commonly seen on the ground but always hold their wings erect when feeding. Both sexes of anomala also visit Lantana and other flowers for nectar. When not feeding they tend to spend long periods at rest on the foliage of bushes.


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