Melinaea lilis imitata
A New U.S. Record for both Genus and Species
December 20, 2008
City of Hidalgo, Hidalgo Co., Texas
 David Hanson

This Butterfly appeared during the noon hour at the Hidalgo Pumphouse Nature Center in Hidalgo, Tx.  Found by Dave Hanson, and seen and photographed shortly thereafter by Mike and Ginny Rickard, it was nectaring in a shaded area on Blue Mistflower, Eupitoreum odoratum.  At first we thought it might be just a robust Isabella Heliconian but upon closer examination it appeared quite different.  After taking many photos the books were consulted and this butterfly would appear to be Melinaea lilis imitata.  The common name given in a Swift Guide to The Butterflies of Mexico and Central America is Heliconoid Ticlear.  The common name used in the "Butterflies of Mexico" website is Mimic Tigerwing.   The genus Melinaea is related to the "clearwings"  and according to the "Butterflies of Costa Rica" it is found in forest habitats up to 1500 m elevation. 
After about 10 minutes the butterfly was caught up in a gust of wind as it flew from one blossom to another.  Being a relatively weak flier it was blown against a fence and then after a few seconds  it escaped and was carried northward away from us.  We never saw it again.  Oddly, about 20 minutes later another butterfly similar to the first one but about 2/3 the size appeared in the air and flew for several minutes over and around the same area and then it too departed northward.  Could this have been a male of the same species that sensed the presence of the larger female and was trying to locate her?  I guess we may never know.  We most likely will tax our imaginations like we did when the Preponas appeared in the Valley last year trying to figure out how they got here.  It doesn't matter.   Melinaea WAS here.  The photos are displayed below. 

Full Frame high res. copies are available:  HERE

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Photo #1

Photo #2

Photo #3

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Dave Hanson
Mission, TX