The northern subspecies, Precis octavia octavia, occurs from Sierra Leone to Somali.

The southern subspecies, P. octavia sesamus, occupies a range starting in Kenya and extending southward through Tanzania and Mozambique and into the Transvaal and KwaZulu-Natal regions of South Africa, through Swaziland and finally into the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

The gaudy commodore is widely distributed and common within its range. It is a well-known visitor to gardens within its range and the red summer form (f. natalensis) is commonly seen at the top of koppies (hills) and ridges around the grasslands of South Africa. The winter form is a frequent visitor to buildings and homes, where it often hibernates awaiting the warm weather when it can begin to fly again. Another commonly observed habit of the winter form of this butterfly is it’s tendency to flock together in holes in the ground to lie dormant when temperatures are too low for flight, particularly at night time. K. Pennington has recorded over 35 individuals flying out of one hole!