Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Golden Lady Slipper
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - SATYRINAE
Tribe - HAETERINI
Pierella hyceta, Manu cloudforest, 1500m ©
The tribe Haeterini is confined
exclusively to the neotropical region. All members of this tribe are
elusive crepuscular butterflies which spend their lives skulking
deep in the undergrowth. There are 5 genera -
Pierella includes 11 species, all
confined to the neotropical region. The butterflies can be instantly
recognised by their characteristic wing shape, cryptic underside
pattern, and their skulking flight just above the surface of the
ground, in the darkness beneath the forest understorey.
members of the genus have brown uppersides, marked on the forewings
with thin, feint brown lines, and on the hindwings with dark
post-median ocelli or spots. Many of the species have a blue
suffusion over the hindwings, while others are marked variously with
white, reddish or orange.
Pierella hyceta can
easily be distinguished from it's cogeners by virtue of the
colouration of the upperside hindwings - these are suffused with
beautiful golden-orange, and have four brown post-median spots. The
only species with which hyceta can be
confused is P. luna lesbia, which has a
reduced and much more clearly defined orange area, and only two
brown spots, neither of which fall within the orange area. There is
another orange species - nereis, but
that has a prominent and very clearly defined white median band that
appears on both wing surfaces.
Pierella hyceta, Manu cloudforest, 1400m ©
This is a pre-montane species, found in wet rainforest at elevations
between about 800-1600m. Most other Pierella
species however have a greater altitudinal range, typically from
The egg is pale and globular. It is laid singly on young leaves of
the foodplant, usually on seedlings.
fully grown the larva is a dull brownish colour, with vague darker
markings and many thin longitudinal lines along the back and sides.
The head has two short horns, and the tail has a pair of caudal
prongs. It feeds nocturnally on Heliconia,
possibly also on Calathea ( Marantaceae
). During the day it rests in a head-downwards posture on the lower
stem of the foodplant. The pupa is pale brown with dark marbling and
mottling on the wing cases and abdomen. It is suspended by the
cremaster from woody stems.
butterflies are usually encountered in two's or three's along dark
narrow forest trails or among bamboo thickets. They fly mainly in the
gloom of pre-dawn, but can also be disturbed when walking along trails
until mid-morning. Like all Pierella
species the flight is low and skulking, but surprisingly rapid, and
has been compared with the movements of a ballroom dancer's feet,
hence the common name "Ladies Slipper" or "Lady Slipper".
Pierella butterflies avoid sunshine, and
by late morning have secreted themselves away deep in the undergrowth.
They often choose to hide amongst the tangle of rootlets which are
found at the base of certain palms.
other Pierella species they tend to flick
their wings open momentarily just after settling but then immediately
close them. On rare occasions just after dawn they will bask with the
wings outspread for a few seconds but this is rarely observed.
Both sexes feed at decomposing fungi and
mouldy fruit on the forest floor.