Malachite (Siproeta stelenes [Linnaeus])
Wing span: 3 1/4 - 4 inches (8.3 - 10.1 cm).
Identification: Upperside is dark brown to black with translucent whitish green or yellow-green patches. Underside is orange-brown with greenish patches. Dry season (winter) form is larger and the hindwing underside has smudged black marks inside the orange marginal band; wet season (summer) form is smaller and has silver marks instead of black smudges.
Life history: Males perch on shrubs in forest or orchard openings and sometimes patrol for females with a slow, floating flight. Adults roost together under the leaves of low shrubs. Eggs are laid singly on host plant leaves, which caterpillars eat and rest beneath.
Flight: Two to three broods during the summer; one brood of the winter form hibernates.
Caterpillar hosts: Cafetin (Blechum brownei) and ruellia (Ruellia coccinea) in the family Acanthaceae.
Adult food: Rotting fruit. Occasionally feeds on bird droppings and nectar from flowers of lianas, trees, and sometimes herbaceous plants. Malachites may feed all day long and may fly to flowers 38 feet high in the canopy.
Habitat: Mango, citrus, and avocado orchards in Florida; subtropical evergreen or semideciduous forests in Central America.
Range: Brazil north through Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies to southern Florida and South Texas. A rare stray into Kansas.
Comments: The southern Florida populations have become established since the 1960s; presumably having emigrated from Cuba.
Conservation: Monitor United States populations.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: None reported.
Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates. Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann