Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
Hypothyris euclea peruviana,
© 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 Ithomiini 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.
There are 18 known species in the genus
Hypothyris, of which 13 are found in
Hypothyris euclea is a common and
widespread species found from Costa Rica to Bolivia. There are
currently 21 described subspecies.
Hypothyris euclea peruviana
was formerly known as hemilas, and has
at various times been placed incorrectly in other genera, namely
Ceratinia. It is restricted to Peru.
This species occurs in rainforest and humid deciduous forest at
altitudes between 200-1200m.
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 with tiny white dots along
the back. The underside of the abdomen and the anal segment are
white, and the prolegs are pale green. The chrysalis is golden,
smooth, and shaped like a raindrop.
Hypothyris euclea is usually seen singly.
It flies in areas where dappled sunlight filters down from the canopy
to the forest understorey. In overcast conditions it leaves the forest
interior and can be seen feeding at Eupatorium
flowers growing in forest glades and along riverbanks.
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.
obtain sustenance from the nectar of Inga,
Psychotria etc, and also visit bird droppings.