Melanitis leda

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Common evening brown
Melanitis leda 09802.jpg
Wet-season form
Melanitis leda dry season form at Kadavoor.jpg
Dry-season form
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Melanitis
Species: M. leda
Binomial name
Melanitis leda
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Papilio leda Linnaeus, 1758
  • Melanitis ismene
  • Cyllo helena Westwood, 1851
  • Cyllo fulvescens Guénée, 1863
  • Melanitis leda africana Fruhstorfer, 1908
  • Melanitis leda africana f. zitenides Fruhstorfer, 1908
  • Melanitis leda ab. plagiata Aurivillius, 1911

Melanitis leda, the common evening brown, is a common species of butterfly found flying at dusk. The flight of this species is erratic. They are found in Africa, South Asia and South-east Asia extending to parts of Australia.


For a key to the terms used, see Glossary of entomology terms.
Subspecies leda (nominate) and ismene, larva and pupa

Wet-season form: Forewing: apex subacute; termen slightly angulated just below apex, or straight. Upperside brown. Forewing with two large subapical black spots, each with a smaller spot outwardly of pure white inwardly bordered by a ferruginous interrupted lunule; costal margin narrowly pale. Hindwing with a dark, white-centred, fulvous-ringed ocellus subterminally in interspace two, and the apical ocellus, sometimes also others of the ocelli,on the underside, showing through.

Underside paler, densely covered with transverse dark brown striae; a discal curved dark brown narrow band on forewing; a post-discal similar oblique band, followed by a series of ocelli: four on the forewing, that in interspace 8 the largest; six on the hindwing, the apical and subtornal the largest.[1]

Dry-season form: Forewing: apex obtuse and more or less falcate; termen posterior to falcation straight or sinuous. Upperside: ground colour similar to that in the wet-season form, the markings, especially the ferruginous lunules inwardly bordering the black sub-apical spots on forewing, larger, more extended below and above the black costa. Hindwing: the ocellus in interspace 2 absent, posteriorly replaced by three or four minute white subterminal spots.

Underside varies in colour greatly. Antennae, head, thorax and abdomen in both seasonal forms brown or greyish brown: the antennae annulated with white, ochraceous at apex.[1]


Colonel C. T. Bingham wrote of the genus in 1878:[citation needed]

The Melanitis was there among dead leaves, its wings folded and looking for all the world a dead, dry leaf itself. With regard to Melanitis, I have not seen it recorded anywhere that the species of this genus when disturbed fly a little way, drop suddenly into the undergrowth with closed wings, and invariably lie a little askew and slanting, which still more increases their likeness to a dead leaf casually fallen to the ground.

Resident butterflies are known to fight off visitors to the area during dusk hours.[2] This chase behaviour is elicited even by pebbles thrown nearby.[3]

The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of grasses including rice (Oryza sativa), bamboos, Andropogon, Rotboellia cochinchinensis,[4] Brachiaria mutica,[4] Cynodon, Imperata, and millets such as Oplismenus compositus,[5] Panicum and Eleusine indica.[6]

Adults feed mainly on nectar, and in rare cases visit rotting fruits.[7]

Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bingham, C.T. (1905). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma Butterflies. 1 (1st ed.). London: Taylor and Francis, Ltd. 
  2. ^ D. J. Kermp (2003). "Twilight fighting in the evening brown butterfly, Melanitis leda (L.) (Nymphalidae): residency and age effects". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 54 (1): 7–13. doi:10.1007/s00265-003-0602-7. 
  3. ^ D. J. Kemp (2002). "Visual mate searching behaviour in the evening brown butterfly, Melanitis leda (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)" (PDF). Australian Journal of Entomology. 41 (4): 300–305. doi:10.1046/j.1440-6055.2002.00311.x. 
  4. ^ a b S. Kalesh & S. K. Prakash (2007). "Additions of the larval host plants of butterflies of the Western Ghats, Kerala, Southern India (Rhopalocera, Lepidoptera): Part 1". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 104 (2): 235–238. 
  5. ^ Krushnamegh Kunte (2006). "Additions to known larval host plants of Indian butterflies" (PDF). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 103 (1): 119–120. 
  6. ^ Gaden S. Robinson; Phillip R. Ackery; Ian J. Kitching; George W. Beccaloni; Luis M. Hernández (2007). "HOSTS - a Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  7. ^ K. C. Hamer; J. K. Hill; S. Benedick; N. Mustaffa; V. K. Chey; M. Maryati (2006). "Diversity and ecology of carrion- and fruit-feeding butterflies in Bornean rain forest". Journal of Tropical Ecology. 22 (1): 25–33. doi:10.1017/S0266467405002750.