Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - HESPERIIDAE
subfamily - PYRGINAE
Tribe - PYRGINI
Pyrgus orcus, male, Tatama NP, Colombia ©
Pyrginae, popularly known as Flats or Spreadwings, are a
cosmopolitan subfamily distributed across temperate and tropical
habitats throughout the world. In the Americas there are 990
species, of which about 580 are assigned to the tribe Pyrgini.
genus Pyrgus has dozens of
representatives in Europe and temperate Asia. There are 8 species in
North America, and 17 which occur in the neotropical region. In
North America they are known as Chequered Skippers, which can be
confusing because the butterflies known in Europe as Chequered
Skippers belong to an entirely different subfamily - the
males in the genus Pyrgus ( and in
several other Pyrginae genera ) have the basal half of the leading
edge of the forewing folded. Within the fold are hundreds of
specialised wing scales called androconia, from which pheromones are
disseminated to entice females into copulation. Males of
orcus are covered with white downy
scales giving them a beautiful 'fluffy' appearance.
Pyrgus orcus occurs from Mexico to
Argentina. The extremely similar species P.
oileus is primarily North American and does not occur south
of Costa Rica.
Pyrgus orcus, Tatama NP, Colombia ©
This butterfly can be found in a
wide variety of disturbed semi-open habitats including pastures,
forest glades and clearings, roadsides, grassland / forest mosaics
and farmland. It can be found at elevations up to at least 1800m.
The eggs are cream in colour and laid singly on the upperside of
leaves. The caterpillar is yellowish green with darker blotches, a
thin line along the back, and a black head. It feeds on the leaves
of Malvastrum and
Sida ( Malvaceae ). The pupa is greenish, or reddish-brown
with a dark line along the back.
Pyrgus orcus, Tingo Maria, Peru ©
sexes bask on low herbage, bare ground or stones, with wings
outspread. They have a rapid darting flight, always close to the
ground. Males are territorial, using stones or small fallen branches
as perches from which they dart up to intercept females or to
challenge other males.
butterflies visit a variety of low growing flowering plants for
nectar, feeding with the wings held half open.
At dusk they go to roost
on dead flowers or on the terminal leaves of herbaceous plants growing
in semi-open habitats such as grassy forest clearings, or along the
edge of roadsides.