Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - ACRAEINAE
Tribe - ACRAEINI
Altinote dicaeus callianira, male, San Pedro, Madre de Dios,
The tribe Acraeini is primarily African - there
are for example 83 species in Kenya, and about 230 in the whole
African continent. There are also a few species in Asia, and an
estimated 55 in the whole of the neotropical region.
In the neotropics the tribe is represented by 3
genera, most members of which have a pattern of red or orange-yellow
bands on the forewings. The genus Actinote
comprises of thinly scaled species whose wings have a translucent
and shiny appearance. The other 2 genera
Abananote and Altinote, are
heavily scaled and boldly marked.
Altinote have velvety black wings,
banded with bright red, orange or yellow. They are toxic models
which form part of a complex Batesian / Mullerian mimicry ring
Eresia, Castalia and various
Ithomiine genera. Altinote
characteristics which in combination make it possible to distinguish
them from other genera include short straight antennae with
flattened clubs, and closed cells on the hindwings. The latter can
most easily be seen from the underside.
Altinote dicaeus is
probably the commonest and most well known species, found in Peru,
Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia.
Altinote dicaeus callianira, Huanuco, Peru ©
This species occurs in disturbed cloudforest habitats at altitudes
between about 1200-1800m. Colonies are localised, and tend to be
found in open sunlit situations, usually along roadsides, or close
I have no
information specific to dicaeus. The
following generalisations are applicable to the genus
Altinote : The eggs are yellowish and
barrel-shaped. They are laid in batches of between 50-100 on the
foodplants which according to species include
Eupatorium, Vernonia, Mikania (
Asteraceae ) and Boehmeria,
Mikania ( Urticaceae).
caterpillars are typically dull greenish or brownish in colour. They
are adorned on the back and sides with rows of short branched
blackish spikes which in some species have mildly urticating
properties. They live gregariously until the final instar. The pupae
are whitish or pale yellow, marked with black spots or lines on the
wing-pads and short black spikes on the abdomen. They are suspended
from stems or foliage.
Altinote dicaeus callianira, males, San Pedro, Madre de Dios,
butterflies are most abundant in the rainy season, when they can be
seen in groups of up to a dozen, visiting flowers, or flying in the
bold patterns, bright colours and slow fluttering flight of these
butterflies suggests that they are "advertising" their toxic
properties to escape predation by birds.
commonly bask on unsurfaced roads, where they imbibe dissolved
minerals from the damp ground. Once settled on the ground to feed they
are exceedingly reluctant to move - so much so that I've often found
aggregations of up to 20 that have been crushed by passing vehicles.