Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - PIERIDAE
subfamily - COLIADINAE
Rio Pindayo, Peru ©
The subfamily Coliadinae includes the Sulphurs,
Grass Yellows, Clouded Yellows and Brimstones. In the neotropical
region there are about 70 species.
The genus Phoebis
comprises of 8 species, most of which are strongly migratory in
behaviour. They are widely distributed across the region, with 3
exceptions : avellaneda which is
endemic to Cuba, editha from Haiti, and
the Ecuadorian species bourkei.
Phoebis species are sexually dimorphic.
Males are bright yellow above, with a thick patch of matt
androconial scales around the forewing cell. Females are paler on
both wing surfaces.
Phoebis argante is found from Mexico to
Uruguay, and also occurs on most of the larger islands of the
Caribbean, including Jamaica, Hispaniola and Cuba.
Rio Shima, Satipo, Peru ©
Rio Pindayo, Peru ©
This species can be found many different habitats
including primary and secondary rainforest, open deciduous woodland,
scrubby grassland, beach headlands, farmland and gardens; at
altitudes from sea level to at least 1600m. In regions where
seasonality is not pronounced it flies throughout the year. In areas
such as Guanacaste where vegetation almost disappears in the dry
season, there is a mass emergence shortly after the first rains.
Satipo, Peru ©
The egg is yellow and is laid singly on new leaves of
Inga ( Mimosaceae ) and Cassia (
Caesalpinaceae ). The larva is dull yellowish-green, and during the
early instars is covered in tiny dark green warts. It has a suffused
green line along the back, and a yellowish line lateral line which
is edged above with dark blue. When fully grown it is a dirty
greenish colour with a whitish lateral stripe. The pupa is green,
and is attached to a leaf or stem by the cremaster and a silken
Males often gather in huge numbers to
imbibe mineralised moisture from river beaches in company with other
Coliadinae including Phoebis neocypris,
Rhabdodryas trite and Aphrissa statira.
These insects often
form very tightly packed groups comprising of dozens of
individuals. If alarmed the entire group erupts spontaneously,
swirling in the air as a seething mass of fluttering yellow wings.
When the danger has passed, they cautiously resettle one by one to
The paler females are seen less often,
and are usually observed in flight, or when nectaring at red flowers
such as Lantana and
Impatiens. There is no courtship ritual - the females are
intercepted in mid-flight and forced to the ground where copulation
takes place immediately.