Kamehameha butterfly

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Kamehameha butterfly
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Vanessa
V. tameamea
Binomial name
Vanessa tameamea
( Eschscholtz, 1821)

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is one of the two species of butterfly endemic to Hawaii, the other is Udara blackburni. [1] The Hawaiian name is pulelehua. This is today a catch-all native term for all butterflies; its origin seems to be pulelo "to float" or "to undulate in the air" + lehua, "reddish," or "rainbow colored," probably due to the predominant color of the Metrosideros polymorpha flower: an animal that floats through the air, from one lehua to another. Alternatively, it is called lepelepe-o-Hina – roughly, " Hina's fringewing" – which is today also used for the introduced monarch butterfly.

The Kamehameha butterfly was named the state insect of Hawaii in 2009, due to the work of a group of fifth-graders from Pearl Ridge Elementary. [2] These 5th graders (Robyn-Ashley Amano, Ryan Asuka, Kristi Kimura, Jennifer Loui, Toshiro Yanai and Jenna Yanke) proposed the butterfly as the state insect to various legislators as a project for Gifted and Talented.


The caterpillars feed on the leaves of plants in the family Urticaceae, [3] especially those of māmaki ( Pipturus albidus) [4] but also ōpuhe ( Urera spp.), ʻākōlea ( Boehmeria grandis), olonā ( Touchardia latifolia), and maʻoloa ( Neraudia spp.). [3] Adults eat the sap of koa ( Acacia koa) trees. [5]


It is named after the royal House of Kamehameha; the last king of this lineage, Kamehameha V, had died in 1872, a short time before this species was described. The specific name tameamea is an old-fashioned and partially wrong transcription of "Kamehameha". The Hawaiian language has no strict distinction between the voiceless alveolar plosive and voiceless velar plosive; use varies from island to island, but today, "k" is used as the standard transliteration. The voiceless glottal transition "h" is distinct and should always be pronounced - for example, " aloha" is correct whereas "aloa" is a wrong pronunciation. Thus, while "Tamehameha" would be a legitimate transcription (though considered old-fashioned on most islands), "Tameamea" is not.


  1. ^ Oboyski, Peter T. "Kamehameha Butterfly (Vanessa tameamea)". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  2. ^ Cooper, Jeanne (2009-08-21). "Emblems of Hawaii a surprise to many Americans". San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ a b Scott, James A. (1992). The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford University Press. p. 281. ISBN  978-0-8047-2013-7.
  4. ^ Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989). "Mamaki" (PDF). Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced). United States Forest Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  5. ^ Scott, Susan (1991). Plants and Animals of Hawaii. Bess Press. p.  78. ISBN  978-0-935848-93-9.

External links

Media related to Vanessa tameamea at Wikimedia Commons