Butterflies of the Indian subcontinent
Sullied Sailor
Neptis soma  MOORE, 1858
Neptis soma  Chilapata, West Bengal, India Adrian Hoskins
The Sailors, or Gliders as they are sometimes called, are all members of the genus Neptis - a large and confusing group of butterflies found across much of the world, excluding the Americas. They are noted for their characteristic sailing flight, and their shared theme of white spots and bars on a black background. They are closely allied to Pantoporia, in which the white markings are replaced by orange; and to Athyma which look like Neptis but have more triangular forewings.
There are about 170 Neptis species of which at least 65 occur in Africa, 40 in the Palaearctic region, 6 in Australia / New Guinea and 50 in the Oriental region. About 24 species are found in India. Many of the species are very similar in marking. Distingushing between them involves careful study of the configuration of the white spots, bars and submarginal lines on both wing surfaces.
Neptis soma occurs in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Taiwan and West Malaysia.
This species can be found in rainforest and humid deciduous forest where it flies in sunlit glades and forest-edge habitats at elevations between sea level and about 800 metres.
The pale globular egg is covered with a network of hexagonal ridges, from which arise tiny spikes, and is reminiscent of a sea urchin. The caterpillar spends it's early instars hiding in a curled up dead leaf from which it periodically emerges to feed. The larval foodplants include Lathyrus, Rhynchosia, Canavalia, Wisteria, Vicia, Desmodium, Puereria, Paracalyx ( Fabaceae ), Corchorus, Trimfetta and Grewia ( Malvaceae ) depending on habitat and location. The chrysalis resembles a withered leaf and is be suspended by the cremaster from a leaf or stem.
Adult behaviour
Like all Neptis species, this butterfly is best appreciated when on the wing, as it sails gently, riding on thermals, with periods of gliding punctuated by occasional sharp wing beats. It flies with great precision, weaving it's way in and out through the foliage and branches.
Both sexes periodically alight to bask on the foliage of trees and bushes. Males sometimes imbibe moisture from damp ground, but like the females they are more often seen nectaring at flowers.
Neptis soma  Ultapani, Assam, India Adrian Hoskins


Contact  /  About me

Butterfly-watching holidays

Trip reports

UK latest sightings

Frequently asked questions

Strange but true !

Taxonomy & Evolution



Enemies of butterflies

Survival strategies

Migration & dispersal

Habitats - UK / Palaearctic

Habitats - Tropical rainforests

Butterfly world census

Butterflies of the World :

British Isles


Amazon & Andes

North America

temperate Asia


Indian subcontinent

Malaysia & Borneo

Papua New Guinea

Australia & N.Z.

Insects of Britain & Europe

Insects of Amazonia

Moths of the Andes

Saturniidae - Silkmoths

Caterpillars of the World

Butterfly Photography

Recommended Books



Code of practice

Copyright - text & images

Copyright - text & images






All photographs, text & website design are the property of Adrian Hoskins unless otherwise stated, and are protected by Copyright. Photographs or text must not be published elsewhere in part or in whole without prior written consent of Adrian Hoskins.