Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
subtribe - DIRCENNINA
Rio Pindayo, Peru
© Adrian Hoskins
The Ithomiini comprises of 376 known species,
although it is likely that at least another 30 will be discovered in
the near future. All are confined to the neotropical region.
are unpalatable to birds, and are consequently mimicked in
appearance by many other species. These include other unpalatable
species ( Müllerian mimics ), not only from the Ithomiinae but also
from several other butterfly families. There are also a large number
of edible species ( Batesian mimics ) which have evolved similar
patterns. Birds have the ability to memorise butterfly patterns and
so learn to avoid eating noxious species, but are also fooled into
ignoring similarly marked edible species.
characterised by having small eyes, slender abdomens and long
drooping antennae that lack distinct clubs. Males have a plume of
long androconial scales or "hair pencils" on the costa of their
hindwings. These are hidden from view when the butterflies are at
rest, but are displayed when the wings are held open during
courtship. Other Ithomiine characteristics include a very slow and
deep wing beat, and a preference for inhabiting the darkest recesses
of the forest understorey.
are basically 2 types of Ithomiine. The first type are the black and
orange-banded "tigers", many of which are mimicked by other species
due to their unpalatability to birds. The second type are the
"glasswings", recognised by their transparent or translucent wings,
prominent veins, and orange wing margins. Many genera contain
examples of both of these types, and in some cases an individual
species may produce adults of both forms according to location.
novices find the Ithomiini very difficult to identify. Using only
the patterns to identify species is very unreliable because there
are so many similar species. Also many species produce a variety of
different colour forms according to locality and season. The best
approach therefore is to use the hindwing venation and other
anatomical features to identify the genus, and to then look at the
wing patterns to short-list the likely species.
The 7 species in the genus
Dircenna all fall into the Glasswing category. They have
several features in common - all are fairly large in size, with
elongated forewings which have a very straight costa, and
distinctively shaped discal cells. The hyaline areas of the wings in
most species reflect a distinct greenish-yellow hue, although in 2
species ( jemina and
olyras ) the wings are smoky orange.
Dircenna adina is distributed from
Colombia to Bolivia. There are 11 known subspecies, including
xanthophane which is restricted to
This is a rainforest species found at altitudes between about
100-500m in the Amazonian lowlands and the foothills of the eastern
I have no
data specific to adina, and little is
recorded about other member of the genus.
Dircenna relata in Costa Rica
lays its white eggs singly on Solanum ( Solanaceae ). It's larva is
described by DeVries as being short and squat, pale green-white and
covered with pale yellow warts.
is widespread and fairly common but nearly always encountered singly.
Both sexes nectar at Eupatorium flowers
at dawn, and again in the late afternoon. They also reportedly nectar
sequester pyrrolizidine alkaloids from
Myosotis ( Boraginaceae ),
Neomiranda and Senecio (
Asteraceae ). These chemicals confer toxic qualities to the
butterflies which deter bird attacks. The chemicals are also used in
the production of pheromones. Often the males of several Ithomiine
species will gather together at communal leks, where they release
these pheromones from hair-like androconial scales on the leading edge
of their upperside hindwings. These attract more males, which in turn
release further pheromones. After a few days the lek may include 50 or
more adults comprised of as many as dozen different species. Passing
females are attracted to the leks by the complex fragrances. Their
presence stimulates the males to open their wings and release further
pheromones that entice them into copulation. Females obtain sustenance
from nectar, and also visit bird droppings which provide them with a
source of nitrogen that assists with the development of their eggs.
Satipo, Peru ©