Whites And Sulfurs

Pieridae. Spanish: Isocas (General, larvae), pirpintos (Argentina).

In these familiar butterflies, yellow, orange, and white are the predominating colors. They frequent flowers of open glades and clearings and are among the sun-loving insect throngs that tend the blossoms of the forest canopy. They also range widely from the coastal deserts and humid swampland to well above tree line in the páramos and rocky slopes of snowcapped peaks.

Like their relatives, the swallowtails, they possess a fully functional pair of front legs, and the pupa is attached at the tip of the abdomen and held upright by a silken girdle passing around the thorax. The larvae are largely smooth except for minute papillae in the integument.

Figure 10.17 BUTTERFLIES, (a) Great southern white (Ascia monuste, Pieridae). (b) Cloudless sulfur (Phoebis sennae, Pieridae), larva, (c) Cloudless sulfur, pupa, (d) Cloudless sulfur, adult, (e) Alpine pierid (Catasticta semiramis, Pieridae). (f) Silver-winged Butterfly (Argyrophorus argenteus, Nymphalidae), larva, (g) Silver-winged butterfly, adult.

Several species, especially the cloudless sulfurs, Phoebis (d'Almeida 1940), participate in migratory swarms. The males are avid puddlers. Many mimics also are found in the family.

The larvae of a few (gusanos de la col, isocas del repollo, lagartas da hortaliga, lagartas da couve) are notorious pests, for example, the widespread, native great southern white (Ascia monuste; fig. 10.17a) and, in Chile only where it was accidentally introduced, the European cabbage butterfly (Pieris brassicae) (Gardiner 1974). The larvae of Colias lesbia (isoca de la alfalfa, cuncuna) destroy alfalfa in Argentina.

Adults of the genus Catasticta (fig. 10.17e) are atypical pierids, having a checkered wing pattern and occurring only at high elevations from Mexico to the Andes, where the greatest number of species are found. The larvae feed on Loranthaceae; they are gregarious and respond by head rearing when molested.

There are approximately 400 species of pierids in Latin America (d'Abrera 1981).

References d'Abrera, B. 1981. Pieridae. In B. d'Abrera, Butterflies of the Neotropical Region. Pt. I. Papilionidae and Pieridae. Lansdowne, East Melbourne, Australia. Pp. 80—165. d'Almeida, R. F. 1940. Revisao do genero Phoebis Hiibn. (Lepidopt Pieridae). Arq. Zool. Est. Sao Paulo 1: 67-148. Gardiner, B. O. C. 1974. Pieris brassicae L. established in Chile; another palaearctic pest crosses the Atlantic (Pieridae). J. Lepidop Soc. 28: 269-277.

Cloudless Sulfur

Pieridae, Pierinae, Coliadini, Phoebis sennae.

This is probably the most common and widespread of the Neotropical pierids. A moderately large butterfly (WS 6 cm), its intense greenish-yellow wings, punctuated on the undersides with scattered patches or lines of reddish-brown scales, immediately identify it (fig. 10.17d). The upper sides of the male wings are immaculate; those of the female are bordered by a broken black margin and an irregular black spot midway near the leading edge of the fore wing.

The species is strongly migratory. Vast clouds moving through many parts of South and Central America and even over the open sea in the Caribbean are of frequent occurrence.

The immatures are well known, the larva (fig. 10.17b) being almost a pest on leguminous ornamentals in the genus Cassia. It feeds on Calliandra and Inga as well. It grows to 35 to 40 millimeters and is elongate (slightly tapered at both ends), and its skin is transversely wrinkled or ridged. It is generally green to yellow-green with a lateral yellow line. The upper half of the body is speckled with small purplish dots in each of which is a minute black wart bearing fine white hairs. The pUpa (fig- 10.17c) is wedge shaped, with greatly expanded wing cases that form a sharp heel where they join from each side. The very deep wing cases give it an arched-backed appearance. Although pink pupae are known, this stage is typically green with a whitish-yellow longitudinal lateral stripe and dark middorsal line.

Stipa (coirón), on which females have been observed to oviposit (Shapiro 1982).


Shapiro, A. M. 1982. Notas sobre los estados inmaduros de la mariposa plateada, Argyro-phorus argenteus Blanchard (Lepidoptera: Satyridae). Soc. Mexicana Lepidop. Rev. 7: 29-31.

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