Meet the common brown butterfly and similar kinds

The Common brown butterfly is a usual sight in Australia, known for its blue eyespots, and it’s similar to the Wall butterflyMeadow brownQuestion mark, and a few other brown butterfly kinds.

Common brown butterfly species summary

Scientific NameHeteronympha merope
Family NameNymphalidae
HabitatOpen forests, woodlands, and urban areas
Host PlantsNative grasses
Butterfly DescriptionBrown/orange wings with prominent eyespot
Caterpillar DescriptionPale yellow and grey

Common brown butterfly description

Male and female Common brown butterflies have several differences in their appearance. Females are larger than males — the wingspan is about 2.4 inches (6 cm) for males and 2.8 inches (7 cm) for females. The upper wings of females are mostly orange. The outer halves of their forewings and the margins of their hindwings are dark brown.

Three yellow patches sit within the black half of each forewing. The underneath of their hindwings is blotchy and grey to brown.

The male Common brown butterfly also has orange wings with brown and black markings, but their colors are lighter than the colors of females. Their brown and black markings are slimmer than the markings on the females.

The underneath of male Common brown butterfly wings is pale orange with brown patches. The male and female butterflies have one eyespot on each of their hindwing and one eyespot on each forewing.

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caterpillar description

During the caterpillar stage of the Common brown butterfly life cycle, the caterpillar is pale yellow and grey. It’s similar in appearance in each instar as it grows. In its final instar, it can be green, grey, or pale brown.

It has brown or black markings and grows black hairs along its entire body. Its head can be a brown to black color with short hairs. The Common brown caterpillar has a forked tail.

Common brown butterfly vs. Wall butterfly

Common brown butterfly vs Wall butterfly
Common brown butterfly vs. Wall butterfly

The Wall butterfly is brown in the same Nymphalidae family as the Common brown butterfly. Although they are in the same scientific family, they are part of a different genus. The Common brown butterfly is a part of the Heteronympha genus. The Wall butterfly is a part of the Lasiommata genus.

The main physical difference between these butterflies is their eyespots. Wall butterflies have one large eyespot on each forewing and four smaller eyespots on each hindwing. Common brown butterflies have blue eyespots, while Wall butterflies have white eyespots.

Another difference between these butterflies is the markings on their wings. Wall butterflies have dark brown markings that create orange base color sections. The dark markings on Common brown butterflies are along the outer part of their wings rather than the entirety of their wings.

Common brown butterfly vs. Meadow brown

Common brown butterfly vs Meadow brown
Common brown butterfly vs Meadow brown

The Common brown butterfly and the Meadow brown are in the same Nymphalidae family. However, the genus of Common brown butterflies is Heteronympha, and the genus of Meadow brown butterflies is Maniola.

The main difference between these butterflies is the colors on their wings. The Meadow brown butterfly is light brown with a light orange marking on each wing. Most Meadow brown butterfly wings are brown, whereas most Common brown butterfly wings are orange.

Eyespots are another prominent difference. Meadow brown butterflies have one eyespot on each forewing, while Common brown butterflies have one on their forewings and one on their hindwings.

Other similar species

Besides the butterflies mentioned above, there are several other brown butterfly species, such as:

Common brown butterfly range and habitat

Common brown butterflies live in Australia. Specifically from central Queensland to the Flinders Ranges and the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. They can also visit Western Australia.

The usual habitat of a Common brown butterfly is a temperate region. They thrive in:

  • Open forests
  • Woodlands
  • Urban areas

common brown host plants and food plants

Common brown butterflies feed on tea-tree flowers, tree sap, and Bursaria flowers. Like all butterflies, they enjoy sweet liquids from flowers.

These butterflies lay eggs on native grasses. The grass is their host plant because this species eats native grasses in the caterpillar stage. Some grasses they eat include weeping grass and kangaroo grass.

How rare are brown butterflies?

Some species of brown butterflies are rare, while others are more common. For example, Meadow butterflies are one of the most common butterfly species in the British Isles and Europe. Buckeye butterflies are another common brown butterfly found in the US.

Peacock butterflies are one of the most common garden butterflies in England. A rare species in Britain is the brown Hairstreak butterfly.

The Common brown butterfly species live in Australia, but they have been declining in population due to climate change. Monarch butterflies are also rare. They live in North America, but they are now classified as endangered.

What does it mean if you see a brown butterfly?

Sighting a brown butterfly is good luck. It is believed to be a blessing from the spirit world. Brown butterflies symbolize good weather and good fortune. They also encourage people to be honest and approachable.

Brown butterflies inspire people to be connected to the earth due to their natural coloration. Brown butterflies vary in shades of brown, but all the shades symbolize resilience, dependability, and honesty.

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