Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - BIBLIDINAE
Tribe - CALLICORINI
Diaethria clymena peruviana, Satipo,
© Adrian Hoskins
genus Diaethria is confined to Central
and South America - 3 species are found in Mexico while the
remainder are widely distributed across the Amazon and Andes. The
butterflies often frequent human dwellings, and are considered a
sign of good luck by some communities.
uppersides of all Diaethria species are
black, marked on the forewings with a diagonal band of metallic blue
or green. In some species this colour is repeated on the hindwings
in the form of a submarginal band.
The 89 or 88
numerals which appear on the underside hindwings of
clymena are present in all 12 of the
Diaethria species but vary in colour, thickness and shape. In
clymena the lines are quite thick, and
the markings often form an '88' figure, while in others such as
euclides they are thin and form an '89'.
quite variable in appearance - in some examples the black markings
on the underside are thicker than those shown in the illustrations
on this page. In several subspecies the black 89 markings are
confluent with the innermost black submarginal line. The white
ground colour of the hindwings often becomes dirty and brownish on
older specimens, as illustrated below. There are 13 named subspecies
distributed variously from Nicaragua to Brazil.
Diaethria clymena marchalii, Tatama NP,
© Adrian Hoskins
This species occurs at elevations between sea level and about 2000m,
in rainforest and cloud-forest habitats where the larval foodplants
Trema ( Ulmaceae ) grow.
Diaethria clymena peruviana, Satipo, Peru
© Adrian Hoskins
The eggs in common with those of other
Diaethria species are whitish and highly sculptured. They are
laid singly on the underside of leaves of
Trema ( Ulmaceae ), close to the midrib. The larva is green,
with a slightly roughened texture, and bears a pair of short spikes
on the anal segment. The head bears a pair of very long whorled
spines. The larva habitually rests on the upper surface of a leaf,
with the thoracic segments raised and the head appressed to the
substrate, causing the spines to project upward. If molested the
larva twitches violently, swinging its head defensively from side to
side to scare away predators or parasitoids. The chrysalis is
suspended by the cremaster from a leaf or stem. It is green, with a
dorsal keel, and projecting palpi.
Diaethria clymena marchalii, Rio Claro,
Colombia © Adrian
sexes are attracted to rotting fruit. The males are strongly attracted
to urine-soaked sand, and also imbibe dissolved minerals from damp
soil, road surfaces and rock faces. They are very active butterflies,
easily disturbed, and rarely settle for more than a few seconds at a
time in one spot, but they will return repeatedly to the same patch of
They are usually seen in
two's or three's, but sometimes congregate in large numbers at
favoured spots. They are commonly found in the vicinity of human
habitations, e.g. on river banks close to jetties, at places where
laundry is washed, at ash covered ground at the site of campfires, and
at urine-tainted patches of bare ground.
When not feeding, males
perch on the upper surface of leaves at a height of about 2-3m,
awaiting passing females. They also commonly perch facing
head-downwards, on walls or tree trunks.
Just before sunset, males often bask with
wings almost fully outspread, on the foliage of trees and bushes,
before eventually retiring beneath a leaf where they spend the night,
protected from rain.
Diaethria clymena marchalii, Rio Tambo,
Peru © Adrian