Green Uranias

Uraniidae, Urania. Spanish: Colipatos verde (Costa Rica). Green page (Trinidad).

Two common Latin American species in this genus of day-flying moths (Urania fulgens and leilus) are well known for their migratory habits. Large-scale movements of hundreds of thousands of individuals take place synchronously every few years, usually between early August and late November. Flights of U. fulgens are seen moving generally in an eastward or southeastward direction through Central America from Mexico as far south as northern Colombia (Young 1970); U. leilus occurs in South America, and its migrations are recorded in Trinidad, the Guianas, and Venezuela (Smith 1972) where it generally moves eastward and southward. Little is known of the origins, precise routes, or function of this phase of the moth's ecology. Because the moths that comprise the migrating hordes are both male and female, the latter predominating and carrying eggs, and are freshly emerged (Oden-daal and Ehrlich 1985), these flights may

Figure 10.5 MOTHS, (a) Green urania (Urania leilus, Uraniidae). (b) Green urania, larva, (c) Eyetail (Nothus luna, Sematuridae). (d) Tiger moth (unidentified, Arctiidae), larva, (e) Tiger moth (Viviennea moma). (f) Tiger moth (Idalus herois). (g) Tiger moth (Hypercompe decora), male.

be unidirectional dispersions in response to diminished food or other resources in their usual breeding territories (Smith 1982).

These are large moths (WS 10 cm), much resembling swallowtail butterflies, with their black and iridescent green-striped pattern and long, flexible, white-fringed tails (fig. 10.5a). The green of the bars is bronzy tan in the males; bright but unreflective in the females. They differ from other moths in their filamentous (but not clubbed) antennae and wing veins forming much smaller major cells in the wings. Their mouthparts are fully functional, and adults are often seen puddling on wet sand or mud in company with their counterparts among the butterflies; at other times, they take nectar from flowers, being especially fond of the white, fluffy flowers of mimosoid legumes such as Inga.

Urania larvae (fig. 10.5b) are medium-sized (BL about 5 cm) and generally black-and-white banded but irregularly and variously so in different individuals. Generally, there is a heavier wavy band around the middle of each abdominal segment, this edged with white anteriorly and often with white blotches on the sides below; a few additional black bands may be present between the main bands. There also are long, fine, black hairs over most of the body; those of the thorax and poste-riormost abdominal segments are extra long and with spatulate, curled tips. The head is red with black spots (Guppy 1907). They feed only on vines and trees in the genus Omphalea (Euphorbiaceae).

Pupation occurs within a sandwich of two leaves fastened by silk from the larva. The pupa is light yellowish-brown, glossy, with irregular black dots on the abdomen and discrete, black, longitudinal lines on the wing cases.


Guppy, L. 1907. Life history of Cydimon (Urania) leilus, L. Entomol. Soc. London Trans. 1907: 405-410.

Odendaal, F. J., and P. R. Ehrlich. 1985. A migration of Urania fulgens (Uraniidae) in Costa Rica. Biotropica 17: 46-49. Smith, N. G. 1972. Migrations of the day-flying moth Urania in Central and South America. Caribbean J. Sci. 12: 45-48. Smith, N. G. 1982. Population eruptions and periodic migration in the day-flying moth Urania fulgens. In E. G. Leigh, Jr., A. S. Rand, and D. M. Windsor, The ecology of tropical forest: Seasonal rhythms and long-term changes. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C. Pp. 331-334. Young, A. M. 1970. Notes on a migration of Urania fulgens (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae) in Costa Rica. Entomol. Soc. J. 78: 60-70.

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