Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - LIMENITIDINI
Adelpha cytherea, Tingo Maria, Peru
© Adrian Hoskins
Adelpha butterflies are colloquially
known as 'Sisters'. In terms of appearance they are reminiscent of
the White Admirals ( Limenitis ) of
Eurasia, and share with them a fondness for flitting gracefully
around the lower branches of trees in the dappled sunlight of the
There are 85 known species of Adelpha,
all except two of which are confined to Central and South America.
They are characterised by the distinctive black marbled pattern
overlaid on a dark brown ground colour; and by having a broad orange
or white band on the forewings. In the vast majority of species this
band also extends vertically down to the tornus of the hindwings.
While it is easy to
recognise the genus, determining the individual species can
sometimes be very difficult - a problem exacerbated by misidentified
museum specimens and mislabelled illustrations in many entomological
books. The only reliable identification resource is "The genus
Adelpha" by Keith Willmott. Accurate identification requires
meticulous examination of the configuration of the orange markings
in the subapical area on the forewing, and of the precise shape of
the vertical bands. It is also essential in most cases to examine
the patterning on the underside.
Adelpha cytherea is a very common
species, widely distributed throughout tropical and subtropical
areas of Central and South America.
This is a common species of rainforest and pre-montane cloudforest
habitats. It occurs at elevations between 0-1800m along forest
edges, in large light gaps, and in secondary forest.
The egg is white and is laid singly on leaves of
Sabicea ( Rubiaceae ). The young larva
nibbles away at the tip of a leaf, leaving the midrib projecting. It
constructs a chain of frass along the midrib and rests at the end of
it. Frass chains appear to act as a deterrent to ants, spiders and
parasitoids who find it difficult to walk on them. The fully grown
larva is dark brown. It has two rows of conspicuous spines along
it's back, those on the first two segments being enlarged and
directed forward, while the third pair are directed backward. It
rests openly on the upper surface of old damaged leaves.
butterflies are usually encountered singly or in two's or three's.
Unlike most other Adelpha species they
rarely imbibe moisture from the ground, but will imbibe from damp
fallen tree trunks or from the surface of foliage. Both sexes nectar
at Cephaelis flowers.
Adelpha cytherea daguana, Tatama NP, Colombia
© Adrian Hoskins