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Butterflies of the Amazon and Andes
Humboldt's Elzunia
Elzunia humboldt  LATREILLE, 1809
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
subtribe - TITHOREINI
Elzunia humboldt, Arrierito Piha reserve, Colombia © Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
The Ithomiini comprises of 376 known species, although it is likely that at least another 30 will be discovered in the near future. All are confined to the neotropical region. Ithomiines are unpalatable to birds, and are consequently mimicked in appearance by many other species. These include other unpalatable species ( Müllerian mimics ), not only from the Ithomiinae but also from several other butterfly families. There are also a large number of edible species ( Batesian mimics ) which have evolved similar patterns. Birds have the ability to memorise butterfly patterns and so learn to avoid eating noxious species, but are also fooled into ignoring similarly marked edible species.
Ithomiines are characterised by having small eyes, slender abdomens and long drooping antennae that lack distinct clubs. Males have a plume of long androconial scales or 'hair pencils' on the costa of their hindwings. These are hidden from view when the butterflies are at rest, but are displayed when the wings are held open during courtship. Other Ithomiine characteristics include a very slow and deep wing beat, and a preference for inhabiting the darkest recesses of the forest understorey.
The genus Elzunia consists of just 2 species, humboldt and pavonii. Both are black on the upperside, banded and spotted with white. On the underside humboldt has a single large reddish-orange patch on the outer part of the hindwing, but pavonii has 2 bands of red-orange spots.
Elzunia humboldt is found in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. There are 10 named subspecies.
Habitats
This species inhabits cloudforest at altitudes between about 1500-2000m.
Lifecycle
To be completed.
Adult behaviour

The butterflies are normally encountered singly. They are rather inactive, and fly slowly with deep wing-beats, but can put on a quick turn of speed if disturbed. Males can be found imbibing moisture from damp ground. Both sexes nectar at Heliconia flowers.

 

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