Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - RIODINIDAE
subfamily - RIODININAE
Tribe - RIODININI
Chorinea sylphina, Machu Picchu, Peru ©
When seen in flight the transparent wings of this
exquisite butterfly reflect a myriad of shimmering iridescent green,
blue and pink hues that hold the observer spellbound. As it flutters
rapidly around bushes and shrubs it could easily be mistaken for a
damselfly, and it is not until it settles under a leaf and stops
fluttering that it reveals its true identity.
The butterflies are rarely encountered. They fly in full sunshine
but periodically rest beneath leaves. The insect shown above settled
under a leaf at the edge of the Sun Gate trail at Machu Picchu. In
places like this, where there is a sheer drop of a thousand metres
next to the trail, and just a few flimsy bushes to break your fall
if you slip, photography can be a little risky! Luckily this
particular insect landed in a position where there was a ledge
immediately below, and photography was safe.
The genus Chorinea comprises of 8
species, all following the same basic wing pattern as
sylphina, but varying in the
configuration and extent of the red markings on their hindwings.
Chorinea sylphina is found in Ecuador,
Peru and Bolivia.
This is a cloudforest species found at altitudes between about
Chorinea sylphina habitat -
cloudforest, altitude 2700m, Machu Picchu, Peru ©
The eggs are pinkish and finely sculptured. They are laid in neat
batches of up to about 160, on the underside of leaves of the
foodplants which include Prionostemma (
Hippocrataceae ) and Maytenus (
Celastraceae ). The newly emerged larvae feed gregariously, nibbling
at the cuticle on the upper surface of the leaves. After the 3rd
instar they feed solitarily, each larva living within it's own leaf
shelter. The pupa is also formed within a leaf shelter.
The butterflies spend most of their time in the canopy, but have been
observed to congregate in groups of 5-12 on the underside of leaves at
a height of about 5m. At ground level they are almost always seen
singly. They fly in full sunshine, and can occasionally be found
mud-puddling at the edge of streams. If molested the butterflies exude
a yellow fluid from a gland on the thorax.