Siproeta stelenes meridionalis (Fruhstorfer, 1909) Malachite

Siproeta stelenes  (© David Geale).

For some reason green is not a common or popular colour for neotropical butterflies. Contrary to other tropical regions in the Old World, there are a mere handful of greenish butterflies in the American Tropics (some hairtreaks like CyanophrysEvenusArcasErora,  the brush footed Nessaea and a few swallowtails) among them the very large malachite green and brown mimetic species with large squarish wings with scalloped margins. This butterfly is a perfect mimic of the heliconine (longwing butterflies) Philaethria wernickei and P. dido, from which it can be distinguished by the larger size, less elongated wings and the heavily serrated hindwing outer margin with 3 small knobbly tails.

Philaethria wernickei (© Antonio Lopes).

It is a common species found over a vast area of the Americas from southern Texas, Florida and the West Indies into Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and south Brazil. Adults are species typical of open forest found from sea level to 1,500 metres in humid or seasonal disturbed forest habitat such as clearings, river banks, roads, edges, secondary growth and even orchards or gardens where many species of weedy or grassy Acanthaceae thrive (Blechum, Justicia, Ruellia). Adults are both attracted to flowers and rotten fruit, they often sun bask in lower foliage on trails, roads or gardens, and females patrol short stretches of this habitat looking for their host plants. The larvae are olive-black with pinkish and white tubercles, thus very reminiscent of toxic Parides and Battus swallowtail caterpillars. The pupae are pale lime-green with a few short spike-like spines.