Reproductive seasonality in the tropical butterfly Hypolimnas bolina (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in northern Australia

D. J. Kemp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Because seasonality in tropical environments is driven by variation in rainfall, phytophagous tropical organisms are expected to exhibit mechanisms of escape in space and time that allow them to synchronize their breeding efforts with suitably wet periods of the year. This hypothesis was addressed by studying the breeding phenology of the nymphalid butterfly Hypolimnas bolina (L.) in the Australian wet-dry tropics. This species favours small, herbaceous larval foodplants that either die off annually or exhibit marked declines in leaf quality during the dry season. As expected, reproductive activity in H. bolina was broadly correlated with both rainfall and humidity, with individuals spending part of the dry season (early April to late August) sheltering in overwintering sites in a state of reproductive diapause. The timing of the overwintering period was similar between the 2 years, which suggests that individuals respond to seasonally predictable cues such as photoperiod. At least in 1998, the exit of butterflies from overwintering sites was relatively sudden and coincided with the first spring rainfall event. These findings suggest that H. bolina copes with seasonal adversity in the tropics by means of a regularly timed diapause.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-494
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Breeding phenology
  • Diapause
  • Dormancy
  • Lepidoptera
  • Reproductive strategy
  • Seasonal cue


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