Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Mesene epaphus pyrrha
Family - RIODINIDAE
subfamily - RIODININAE
Tribe - SYMMACHIINI
Rio Cristalino, Mato Grosso, Brazil
© Tony Hoare
There are 26 species in the genus Mesene.
The majority are bright red, with black borders or apical patches,
which in some species are marked with white spots. In a few species
such as leucopus and
silaris the red colour is replaced by
The various Mesene butterflies are
considered to be Batesian mimics of noxious moths in the genus
Holomelina ( Arctiidae ). Several other
moths e.g. Eubaphe and
Eudolophasia ( both Geometridae ) also
mimic Holomelina. The illustrated
subspecies Mesene epaphus pyrrha was in
fact discovered by Henry Walter Bates, the legendary 19th century
explorer and naturalist who originated the theory of butterfly
mimicry which now bears his name - Batesian mimicry.
This species is
distributed from Venezuela to southern Brazil.
Mesene epaphus is found in primary
rainforest at altitudes between sea level and about 800m.
are pale green with short white setae, and a prominent dorsal crest
of very long white setae. The feed on Inga
( Fabaceae ) and possibly also on Sapindaceae.
The adults are
very elusive and usually encountered singly at light gaps or areas
where dappled sunlight filters through the trees. They have a very
rapid and erratic flight, and nearly always settle on the underside of
leaves. The butterflies are very difficult to approach, instantly
darting off, whizzing around for 4 or 5 seconds in and out amongst the
trees, and then suddenly disappearing beneath the leaf of a bush.
Patience is sometimes rewarded however, as they tend to stay in the
same area all morning, and on rare occasions settle on the upperside
of a leaf.