Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
FELDER & FELDER, 1865
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - ITHOMIINI
de Dios, Peru ©
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.
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.
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.
are basically 2 types of Ithomiine. The first type are the black and
orange-banded "tigers", many of which are mimicked by other species
due to their unpalatability to birds. The second type are the
"glasswings", recognised by their transparent or translucent wings,
prominent veins, and orange wing margins. Many genera contain
examples of both of these types, and in some cases an individual
species may produce adults of both forms according to location.
novices find the Ithomiini very difficult to identify. Using only
the patterns to identify species is very unreliable because there
are so many similar species. Also many species produce a variety of
different colour forms according to locality and season. The best
approach therefore is to use the hindwing venation and other
anatomical features to identify the genus, and to then look at the
wing patterns to short-list the likely species.
Oleria comprises of about 50 known
species, characterised by the distinctive venation of the hindwings.
various species have transparent or translucent wings, marked on the
upperside with a suffused white subapical bar, blackish borders and
a black diagonal bar. The dark markings are repeated on the
underside in orange, edged with black. In some species the markings
can be narrow and clearly defined, but in others they are suffused
and much more extensive.
Oleria quintina can
be easily confused with other members of the genus, particularly
with didymaea and
victorine. The insect illustrated above was kindly identified
by Ithomiine expert Keith Willmott as quintina.
It occurs from Venezuela to Peru.
is associated primarily with wet tropical rainforest habitats, and
is most commonly found in the vicinity of rivers or streams, at
altitudes between 200-1800m.
have no data specific to quintina but
the following generalisations can be regarded as applicable to the
eggs are white. They are laid singly although several may be dotted
about on one plant by any particular female.
The larvae are dull greyish-green, with a
wrinkled texture, and have small shiny black heads. They feed on
Lycianthes ( Solanaceae ).
pupae are usually pale green, unmarked, and have compressed
abdominal segments and a dorsal hump.
other Ithomiines, the butterflies spend long periods at rest on the
foliage of small shrubs in the darkness of their rainforest and
cloudforest habitats. They are extremely nervous, and if disturbed fly
immediately, only to resettle on another nearby leaf. The flight is
very slow, with characteristic deep wing beats. When feeding in the
open they behave very differently - both sexes being very placid and
reluctant to leave their flowers.
sequester pyrrolizidine alkaloids from
Myosotis ( Boraginaceae ),
Neomiranda and Senecio (
Asteraceae ). These chemicals confer toxic qualities to the
butterflies which deter bird attacks. The chemicals are also used in
the production of pheromones. Often the males of several Ithomiine
species will gather together at communal leks, where they release
these pheromones from hair-like androconial scales on the leading edge
of their upperside hindwings. These attract more males, which in turn
release further pheromones. After a few days the lek may include 50 or
more adults comprised of as many as dozen different species. Passing
females are attracted to the leks by the complex fragrances. Their
presence stimulates the males to open their wings and release further
pheromones that entice them into copulation. Females obtain sustenance
from nectar, and also visit bird droppings which provide them with a
source of nitrogen that assists with the development of their eggs.