Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - PIERIDAE
subfamily - COLIADINAE
Phoebis philea, male, Satipo, 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 Hispaniola, and the
Ecuadorian species bourkei.
All 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 philea is found from Mexico to
Peru, and also occurs on many of the Caribbean islands.
As with other Phoebis species,
philea is highly migratory in behaviour
and can thus be found in a wide variety of habitats including
primary and secondary rainforest, deciduous woodland, scrubby
grassland and farmland; at altitudes between sea level and about
Phoebis philea, Rio Claro, Colombia ©
The eggs are yellow and laid singly on young leaves of
Cassia ( Caesalpinaceae ). The larva
when fully grown is pale green and covered with greenish-black dots.
There is a broad straw-coloured band along the sides, above which is
a series of short blackish vertical bands. The pupa is pinkish, with
the wing venation picked out in pale green, and a prominent pale
green lateral line.
Males are usually seen in lower numbers than
sennae or argante, but can often
be found amongst mud-puddling aggregations of other
Phoebis species. These insects often form
very tightly packed groups of dozens of individuals. If alarmed the
entire group erupts spontaneously into the air and swirls about for
several minutes afterwards in a seething mass of fluttering yellow
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.
Phoebis philea, male