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Hawaiian (Vanessa tameamea)

Hawaiian Butterfly

The Hawaiian Butterfly is widely found across the island of Hawaii. They are known for their rare hue of orange, and some similarity with the very popular ‘Monarch Butterfly’ found primarily in North America. It is one of the two butterfly species of the island, with the other one being the Hawaiian Blue Butterfly.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Vanessa
  • Common names: Kamehameha
  • Scientific Name: Vanessa tameamea

Description and Identification


Kamehameha Butterfly Caterpillar

The first instar of the larvae hatches out very small and is black in color with small thorn-like protrusions. The next instar makes it green, then, to white, and finally to green (but sometimes red too). They feed on the leaves of the host plants by the edges.


Hawaiian Butterfly Chrysalis

The chrysalis is initially white with light brown patches, with a red variant as well having similar patches all over.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: Vaguely present

Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, they display a vibrant peach-orange, which is the dominating color. The upper corners of the two primary wings are widely black that continues downwards forming borders. There are three light orange spots (in the males) or bright white spots (in the females) atop the black region. The secondary wings also display the same hue of orange, with some black markings, and white stitch-like border. When the wings are closed, the ventral side displays a dull color that resembles a dead leaf, with only a very small part of the upper wing colors being visible. This leaf-like look is for the purpose of camouflage.

Vanessa tameamea
Kamehameha Butterfly

Average wingspan: About 3 inches

Flight pattern: Medium and almost straight



Very tiny, about 1 mm in diameter, laid singly on either surface of the host plants’ leaves

Quick Facts

Distribution Hawaii, USA
Habitat Mostly prefer gulch or stream habitats where there is an abundance of the host plants
Host plants Mostly the plants belonging to the Urticaceae family
Adult diet The sap of the Acacia koa

Did You Know?

  • The insect is named after the Hawaiian royal House of Kamehameha, as also, the last king of the lineage, Kamehameha V, who passed away in 1872, only a short time before this butterfly was first described.
  • In the Hawaiian language, it is called the ‘pulelehua’, where ‘pule’ means ‘to float in the air’, and ‘lehua’ meaning ‘reddish or ‘rainbow-colored’.
Male Kamehameha Butterfly
Kamehameha Butterfly Images
Female Kamehameha Butterfly

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Vanessa
  • Common names: Kamehameha
  • Scientific Name: Vanessa tameamea
Published by Avatar on January 14, 2019.
Last Updated: December 19, 2019. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team