Eryphanis sp. — “Purple mort blue”



Eryphanis sp. (mentioned as  genus rather than species, as there seems to be a current taxonomical mess, often mentioned under the incorrect species name “polyxena” which is in fact either  the species lycomedon or automedon) is a medium to large butterfly species, related to Caligo and Morpho (Brassolini). Overal a very unique species to breed and rear. The adults are iridescent – they reflect a rather dark tint of purple, which meight change to dark blue from some angles. The larvae are rather bizarre in shape and behaviour.

eryphanisEryphanis male, showing the scent scales on the hindwings and dark purple iridescence

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate (Reasonably easy for a butterfly but needs more effort than moths; larvae grow slow)
  • Rearing difficulty: 6/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 6/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Poaceae grasses, bamboo (Fargesia, Bambusa) Reeds such as Phragmites sp., Papyrus grasses (Cyperus). 
  •  Natural range: Central and South America
  • Polyphagous:   Yes but probably only on Poaceae
  • Generations: Multivoltine (continuous breeding)
  • Family: Nymphalidae (brush footed butterflies)
  • Pupation:  Chrysalis 
  • Prefered climate: Tropical – hot and humid
  • Special notes: The larvae look like dragons, what else do you need! They also have a cervical gland that secretes palmitic acid, a substance that probably repels ants

DSC01711.JPGEryphanis female: much less iridescence, rather blue than purple, and slightly larger. 

The larvae, wonderfully camouflaged, are quite long and slender. Their anal prolegs have been modified into two elongated “tails”. Their head capsules have horns and larvae move in a quite odd way, like they are shaking in the wind! The larvae feed on various grasses in the Poaceae family. Including bamboo (Fargesia), reed (Phragmites) and papyrusgrass (Cyperus).

eryphanis larvaYoung Eryphanis larva, not nearly fully grown, final instars range over 11cm+ 

The most important thing with rearing this species is humidity. Larvae prefer warmth but also perform well on room temperature. Reed, bamboo or papyrusgrass are recommended, especially Bamboo which is the native hostplant. Larvae develop rather slowly and will take a couple of months to develop prior to pupation.

DSC09571The beautifully detailed underside of Eryphanis, with camouflage pattern.

The adults forage on the forest floors and mainly seek out fermented fruits and substances rich in minerals to drink from. The pupae are well camouflaged and blend well with their environment.

DSC08987Fully grown larva

DSC09515.JPGBeautiful iridescent male 

DSC09496.JPGFreshly emerged and resting on the pupal case

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Citations: Coppens, B. (2019); Written by Bart Coppens; based on a real life breeding experience [for citations in literature and publications] 

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