Kallima, from the Greek word meaning beautiful, is the generic name of certain butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae which are also called leaf butterflies, or dead leaf butterflies. When they close their wings they are transformed.
The several species of Kallima range from New Guinea, to south Asia, India, Ceylon, Madagascar, the Gold Coast and Ashanti.
The Nymphalidae family includes the fritillaries, purple emperor, white admiral, and the vanessid butterflies such as peacock, red admiral, tortoiseshell and Camberwell beauty, all brilliantly marked and powerful in flight.
The shape of the wings, and the colors and markings of their undersides, give the appearance of a dead leaf. Many members of their family have "tails" on the rear margins of the wings. These are short and blunt-ended. When it comes to rest on a twig the tail touches the twig and looks like a leaf stalk. Between this tip and the bogus leaf stalk runs a dark line, across both fore and hind wings, which looks like the mid-rib of a leaf. Less distinct dark lines run obliquely upwards from the central line to the margins of the wings, and these look exactly like the veins of a leaf.
To complete the illusion, and this is especially true of the K. inachus, the species most often seen in museums or books, there are patches on the wings just like holes and tears, the fungal growths and other blemishes found on dead leaves.
Kallima inachus (right), in typical pose, showing the peak of perfection reached by the insect's camouflage.
Dead-leaf butterflies live in regions of heavy rainfall, in thick forests in hilly and mountainous districts. They are seldom seen in the open and never fly far.
One breeding season is from April to June, and the other is after the rains. Its caterpillar feeds on flowering trees and shrubs.