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Butterflies of the Amazon and Andes
Smith's Pixie
Melanis smithiae  WESTWOOD, 1851
Family - RIODINIDAE
subfamily - RIODININAE
Tribe - RIODININI
Melanis smithiae, male, Satipo, Peru  Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
The name Melanis refers to the melanic pigment of the black scales which cover the distinctively shaped wings of all members of this genus. Many Melanis species are marked with orange borders on the hindwings, and / or similarly coloured diagonal bands on the forewings. In some species the apex of the forewings is orange, and in others there are large red spots near the base of the wings.
There are 27 known members in the genus. One particularly attractive species, M. pixe, has a range extending from Mexico to Panama, but the majority of species are found in the Andes mountains, or in the Amazonian lowlands.
Melanis smithiae exhibits local and geographical variation in the extent of the orange markings. The red spots vary in size and are absent on the hindwings of many examples.
This species is found in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Melanis smithiae, male, Satipo, Peru  Adrian Hoskins
Habitats
This species inhabits transitional rainforest / cloudforest in the eastern Andes, at altitudes between about 200-1000m. This species flies throughout the year but is commonest in the early part of the dry season.
Lifecycle
I have no information specific to smithiae but the lifecycle is likely to be similar to that of other Melanis species : The larvae are hairy, and feed gregariously on the leaves of trees in the family Leguminosae. The pupae are said to be formed in clusters on tree trunks.
Melanis smithiae, male, Satipo, Peru  Adrian Hoskins
Adult behaviour

The butterflies have a slow fluttery flight typical of aposematic species, drifting gracefully above the vegetation at a height of about 1-2m above ground level. Males can sometimes be found imbibing mineralised moisture from sandy river beaches, and are reported to fly around the canopy of Samanea trees in search of females. Both sexes nectar at Inga, Cordia, Albizia and Citrus.

Melanis smithiae, male, Satipo, Peru  Adrian Hoskins

 

 

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