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For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Genus Colobura - Mosaics or Beauties

Please help identify. Caterpillar crawling on Trumpet tree. - Colobura dirce
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Nymphalinae (Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc.)
Tribe Nymphalini
Genus Colobura (Mosaics or Beauties)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Colobura Billberg, 1820. Type species: Papilio dirce Linnaeus
Gynoecia Doubleday, [1845] (objective junior synonym). Type species: Papilio dirce Linnaeus
Gynaecia Westwood, 1850 (incorrect subsequent spelling)
The triangular wings, brown upper side with a prominent yellowish diagonal stripe crossing the front wing, and bold, nearly black and white stiped pattern of the lower side make this butterfly distinctive and fairly easy to identify.

Smyrna is closely related and similar, but easily distinguished by somewhat large size, broader more rounded wing shape, and details of of the color pattern. Most notably in Colobura there is a prominent straight pale stripe crossing the ventral hind wing near the base, but there are no large prominent eye spots, and the striped pattern is much less broken and is more contrasting. The dark area occupying the apex of the upper front wing has at most one tiny pale dot, while on the underside it is occupied by the pattern of stripes; In Smyrna this area is crossed prominently above and below by a diagonal row of three prominent pale spots, and the stripe pattern in this area on the lower side is mostly restricted to the very tip of the wing. Smyrna is more distinctly orange above, and in males the diagonal stripe on the upper front wings is orange instead of yellow.

Hypanartia and Vanessa are also related and somewhat similar, but wing pattern (particularly the less bold, more finely broken pattern of the under hing wings), less triangular wings, and a fondness for more open sunny environments (often visiting flowers) will distinguish them easily. Hypanartia lethe is similar enough in pattern to be confused, but on the upper front wings there is an added dark daigonal stripe, and the dark apical area is broken by orange spots that are not lined up in a row. Hypanartia also has tailed hind wings.
Tropical America, from Argentina to Mexico and the Greater Antilles. Has been listed anecdotally (but not verified?) as occuring in sw. U.S. (reported as C. annulata , but more likely ? C. dirce dirce), and perhaps introduced in Florida (C. dirce ssp.? wolcotti).
Tending to favor open wooded areas with cover nearby. Like to sit on tree trunks with wings closed, where they are well-camouflaged.
Larvae are known to use Cecropia (Urticaceae), while adults most often feed from carrion, tree sap, rotting fruit etc. Apparently not (ever ?) visiting flowers.
Lively butterflies, with males perching in territories that they guard, and darting out to investigate / chase passers-by. Often sitting head-down on tree trunks or similar places. Apparently (??) C. annulata will congregate at evening roosts (as do related Smyrna, sometimes in spectacular numbers), and it also has larvae that occur in gregarious groups. C. dirce is apparently less social in it's habits.

Colobura's closest relative is apparently the 'Tiger Beauty' (Tigridia acesta), which occurs in Central America. It is similar, but smaller with rounded wings.
Print References
Willmott, K. R., L. M. Constantino, and J. P. W. Hall. 2001. A review of Colobura (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) with comments on larval and adult ecology and description of a sibling species. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 94(2):185-196.