Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
© 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 translucent wings and prominent
venation. Many genera contain examples of both types, and in some
cases an individual species may produce adults of both forms
according to location.
The genus Hyalyris
comprises of 13 species, which can be recognised by their
distinctive venation, and by the broad black margins with which are
prominent white submarginal spots. Some species have simple patterns
like that of latilimbata,
antea and mestra;
but others including excelsa,
and oulita have conspicuous orange
patches on the hindwings.
There are 13 known species in the genus
Hyalyris, of which 10 are found in
Hyalyris mestra is found in mid
elevation cloudforest on the eastern Andes, at altitudes between
about 500-1200m. It can be found flying along shady forest trails,
or in full sunshine along forest edges. Populations tend to be
The eggs are white. They are laid in batches of up to 80 beneath
leaves of Solanum ( Solanaceae )
growing along forest edges. The caterpillars are gregarious. They
feed diurnally on the leaf tissue, leaving the midrib and veins
intact. When fully grown they are black above and whitish below,
with translucent green prolegs. The chrysalis is golden, smooth, and
shaped like a raindrop.
Hyaliris mestra is usually seen singly,
and flies in open sunlight at the edges of clearings, and along forest
trails, where it nectars at Eupatorium
and other flowers.
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 used to entice females into copulation.