Butterflies of the
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - NEPTINI
Chilapata, West Bengal, India
© Adrian Hoskins
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
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
Neptis soma occurs in India, Nepal,
Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Taiwan and West Malaysia.
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.
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,
Paracalyx ( Fabaceae ), Corchorus,
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.
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.
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.
Ultapani, Assam, India
© Adrian Hoskins