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Butterflies of the Amazon and Andes
Alala Sister
Adelpha alala  HEWITSON, 1847
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - LIMENITIDINAE
Tribe - LIMENITIDINI
Adelpha alala negra, Tatama NP, Colombia Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
Adelpha butterflies are colloquially known as 'Sisters'. In terms of appearance they are reminiscent of the White Admirals ( Limenitis ) of Eurasia, and share with them a fondness for flitting gracefully around the lower branches of trees in the dappled sunlight of the forest.
There are 85 known species of Adelpha, all but two of which are confined to Central and South America. The butterflies are characterised by having a distinctive blackish marbled pattern overlaid on a brown ground colour; and by the presence of a broad orange or white band on the forewings. The hindwings of most species have a white median band.
While it is easy to recognise the genus, determining the individual species can sometimes be very difficult - a problem exacerbated by misidentified or mislabelled specimens in certain entomological books. The only reliable identification resource is 'The genus Adelpha' by Keith Willmott. Accurate identification requires careful examination of the configuration of orange markings in the subapical area on the forewing. In most cases it is also essential to examine the patterning on the undersides, by which means otherwise similar species can be distinguished.
Adelpha alala is confined to the Andes mountains, and occurs in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and north-west Argentina.

Adelpha alala negra, male, Manu cloudforest, 1500m, Madre de Dios, Peru Adrian Hoskins
Habitats
This is a pre-montane and lower cloudforest species, occurring at altitudes between about 400-2600m on the eastern slopes of the Andes.

Adelpha alala negra, Tatama NP, Colombia Adrian Hoskins

Lifecycle
I have no data specific to alala. The following generalisations apply to the genus Adelpha: The eggs of most species are white or pale green, and laid singly on leaves of the foodplants. These include Rubiaceae, Piperaceae, Moraceae, Urticaceae, Verbenaceae, Melastomaceae, Ulmaceae, Tiliaceae, Bombacaceae or Ericaceae according to species. The young larvae nibble away at the tips of leaves, leaving the midrib projecting. They construct a chain of frass along the midrib and rest at the end of it. The frass chains appear to act as a deterrent to ants, spiders and parasitoids which find it difficult to walk on them. When fully grown the larvae are cryptically coloured and resemble bird droppings, mossy twigs or bits of curled up dead leaf. They have two rows of conspicuous spines along their backs, those on the first two segments being enlarged and directed forward, while the third pair are directed backward. The pupae, which are suspended by the cremaster, are in some species green or brown, while others are entirely silver, and shiny. The pupae of some species are decorated with numerous spikes and projections, and sometimes have very prominent palpi.
Adult behaviour

This species is usually encountered as solitary males, flitting and gliding in sunny areas, often in the vicinity of waterfalls and streams. The butterflies periodically alight to imbibe moisture from damp ground, and feed with wings either outspread or closed, depending on ambient temperature.

These mud-puddling males are invariably found to be in immaculate condition, probably unmated - suggesting that the dissolved minerals which they sequester from the mud may play an essential role in the fertilisation of females. The probability is that the minerals are processed by the male, to provide vital nutrients that are passed to the female during copulation. This could be partly because the females need to reduce the time spent feeding themselves, so that they can maximise time spent egg-laying. It is more likely however that the nutrients are vital to fecundity.

Adelpha alala negra, Tatama NP, Colombia Adrian Hoskins

 

 

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