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Kamehameha (Vanessa tameamea)


Kamehameha Butterfly

The Kamehameha is one among the two butterfly species indigenous to the Hawaii region. Its alternate name is Pulelehua which in Hawaiian language means “butterfly”.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Vanessa
  • Scientific Name: Vanessa tameamea

Description and Identification


Kamehameha Butterfly Caterpillar

They are green or grey with black heads when newly hatched and as they develop they attain a light green, black or yellow coloration.


Kamehameha Butterfly Pupa

The pupae differ in color and some may have a distinct red shade on their body. They may be seen hanging on twigs or stems or near to the host plants of the caterpillar.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

Color and Appearance: When the wings are opened it has orange patches in most parts of it, with shades of black all over, more prominent in the apex. Small white patches are also seen at the tip of their forewing. When the wings are closed, they have a pale brown coloration. The white patches just mentioned are observed in females, while in the males these spots are orange in color.

Male Kamehameha Butterfly
Female Kamehameha Butterfly

Average Wingspan: 63.5 mm (2.5 in)

Flight Pattern: Fast, with an unpredictable path of flight.


Kamehameha Butterfly Eggs

Small, like the size of the head of a pin, laid on the host plants of the caterpillar on the leaves’ lower or upper surface.

Quick Facts

Distribution Throughout the Hawaii region
Habitat Near gulch and streams and forests with koa trees
Lifespan of Adults Unknown
Host plant Mamaki (Pipturus albidus), Olonā (Touchardia latifolia), Opuhe (Urera kaalae), Akolea (Boehmeria grandis)
Adult diet Flower nectar, koa tree’s sap

Did You Know

  • It attained its name after the House of Kamehameha, Hawaii’s royal family.
  • It became Hawaii’s national insect in the year 2009 because of the initiatives taken by the fifth grade students of the Pearl Ridge Elementary, Hawaii.
  • The Pulelehua Project has been a remarkable initiative undertaken by the University of Hawaii’s researchers in collaboration with the government of Hawaii, owing to their declining population in the recent times. Individuals are invited to submit photographs if the pupa, eggs or adult butterfly so that their habitat may be mapped.
Kamehameha Butterfly Habitat
Vanessa Tameamea
Kamehameha Butterfly Images

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Vanessa
  • Scientific Name: Vanessa tameamea
Published by Poppy Glendening on June 16, 2019.
Last Updated: October 15, 2023. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team