Butterflies of the Amazon and Andes
Harmonia Mantle
Caria rhacotis   GODMAN & SALVIN, 1878
subfamily - RIODININAE
Caria rhacotis male, Satipo, Peru Adrian Hoskins
The genus Caria contains some of the most beautiful and elusive species on Earth. Although fairly common they are rarely seen due to their secretive habits, and are virtually impossible to follow in flight. Once seen these glittering jewels of the Amazon are never forgotten.
Lepidopterists often feel quite overwhelmed by the beauty of these butterflies, but initial feelings of ecstasy are soon replaced by the rapid onset of frustration, anguish, despair and an uncontrollable urge to spend the next 2 hours hawking relentlessly in the vicinity of the sighting, peering into bushes, crawling about on the ground and searching every nook and cranny, while muttering and pleading with the butterfly to reveal itself !
There are 14 species in the genus Caria, 5 of which are restricted to Central America, while the others including mantinea and sponsa are found primarily in Amazonia and the foothills of the eastern Andes. Caria rhacotis is distributed from Mexico to Peru.
Several of the species including mantinea, plutargus, castalia and smaragdina are almost identical on the upperside. Caria rhacotis differs in having the base of the forewings marked with red and blue. Also, a patch of suffused orange covers the apex and extends half way down the outer margin. In the other Caria species the apex is dark, with a small reddish apical spot.
Caria rhacotis male, Rio Claro, Colombia Adrian Hoskins
This species is most often seen in disturbed areas of tropical and subtropical forest, at altitudes between about 200-1000m.
The eggs are laid singly under the leaves of Celtis iguanea ( Ulmaceae ). The larvae are densely hairy, and live and feed within rolled leaf tubes.
Adult behaviour

The adults seem to spend much of their time in the canopy, but males descend on hot sunny days to imbibe moisture from river beaches, or from the beds of dry streams. In my experience they tend to settle in more open areas than other Caria species.

They have a rapid and erratic flight which is virtually impossible to follow with the eye, but once settled they tend to remain static for long periods. Despite their bright metallic colouration they are actually quite difficult to spot on the ground, where they often settle amidst a mosaic of moss, algae and multi-coloured sand.

The butterflies usually bask with the forewings swept back, half covering the hindwings.

Caria rhacotis male, Rio Claro, Colombia Adrian Hoskins



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