Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
Rio Madre de Dios, 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.
genus Forbestra consists of 3 species -
olivencia and proceris. All are
'tiger-complex' species with elongated wings, and have similar
markings. The most widely distributed species is
equicola which is found in Venezuela,
Surinam, Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.
Forbestra olivencia is found in Brazil,
Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. There are 7 subspecies.
This species inhabits lowland rainforest at altitudes between sea
level and about 500m.
butterflies are normally encountered singly. They are rather inactive,
and fly slowly with deep wing-beats.
Eupatorium flowers from which they
sequester pyrrolizidine alkaloids which
toxic qualities to the butterflies, thus deterring bird attacks. The
chemicals are also used in the production of pheromones. These are
stored in plumes of androconial scales located on the inner margin of
the forewings. The presence of passing females stimulates the males to
slowly fan their wings, thereby releasing the scents and enticing the
females into copulation.