The Charaxinae

The Charaxinae

The Killer Moth or Charaxes of Batman may be a villain that everyone hates. But that does not stop the butterflies I’m in love with – commonly called Leafwings be named the Charaxes (Subfamily Charaxinae).
Introducing the Nawab (Polyura athamas) and the Rajahs (Charaxes solon and Charaxes bernardus) from my backyard, who happen to be rather uncommon – if not rare – in the habitat that surrounds us.

There are around 400 species of Leafwings most of which found in tropics. India has about 16 sp. belonging to subfamily Charaxinae, family Nymphalidae. These butterflies are well known for their robust bodies, fast flight and cryptic designs. The habit of fast flight is developed to evade predators such as birds.
Charaxes solon seen here puddling on animal scat
Charaxes solon feeding on Pongamia pinnata sap
All Charaxinae exhibit other similar characteristics apart from morphological adaptations. The common food source for most larvae is dicotyledonous plants. The adults frequent wet rocks, dung, animal scat and rotting fruits rather than flowers unlike other butterflies to drink the liquid food.
Head capsule of Polyura athamas caterpillar
The larvae of Charaxes show a typical “head capsule” that are four divergent curved fleshy processes which gives them a “crown” like appearance. The larvae are also known to make “larval beds” to rest on it during night hours.

Common Nawab
Polyura athamas seen here puddling on a rock

This robust butterfly prefers high canopy, but often visits the ground for food which happens to be the best way to observe it. Eggs are laid on Fabaceae plants, Acasia caesia, Adenanthera pavonina, Caecalpenia sp., Pithecellobian dulces etc. It is commonly seen at SGNP, specifically Nagla Block part of SGNP.

Tawny Rajah
Charaxes berbardus seen here puddling on a rock

A tawny colored butterfly, considered to be one of the fastest of them all. It is yet another canopy butterfly, often visiting the ground for food. The larval food plant is Aglaia lawii. The best place to see it is again at SGNP, Nagla Block.

Black Rajah
Charaxes solon
A cryptic butterfly, Black Rajah is one of the favorites of Butterfly watchers. It is generally a low-altitude butterfly, commonly seen feeding on the secretions of rotting fruits and animal scat. The larvae feed on Tamarindus indica and other Fabaceae plants. Best place to observe them is at Mahim Nature Park Society.

All of the Charaxinae butterflies are considered uncommon, and most rare. This status is given to them for they are scarcely seen around. A better way to protect these is by keeping-your-garbage-with-you that is, by not littering the parks (National Parks included!). Planting the larval food plants – which are all ecologically important as well as wild – in your backyard may invite these in your backyards for there are records of the larvae seen feeding in suburbs too.


  1. Hi Annirudha, I came upon your blog through a comment you left on mine. You seem to have something very interesting going on with your photography. You're really doing quite well.

    Keep at it and I wish you luck!


  2. Hi Annirudha,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog.

    Butterflies are also among my favourite creatures - the Charaxes and Polyura group are definitely most interesting, some spp of which are also found here in Borneo.




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