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Acta zoológica mexicana

versión On-line ISSN 2448-8445versión impresa ISSN 0065-1737

Acta Zool. Mex vol.30 no.2 Xalapa ago. 2014


Nota científica


Remarks on the daily rhythm of lepidoptera in Simsia amplexicaulis (Cav.) (Asteraceae) in a cloud forest of Veracruz state, Mexico


Observaciones sobre el ritmo diurno de Lepidoptera en Simsia amplexicaulis (Cav.) (Asteraceae) en el bosque nublado del estado de Veracruz, México


Fernando Hernández-Baz 1*, Jorge M. González 2, Tomás Carmona Valdovinos 1 & Gerardo Castro Bobadilla 1


1 Facultad de Biología-Xalapa, Universidad Veracruzana. Circuito Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán s/n. C.P.91000. Zona Universitaria. Xalapa, Veracruz, México. *Correspondence: <>

2 California State University, Fresno, Department of Plant Science, Fresno, California 93740-8033, USA (Research associate, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity)


Recibido: 03/09/2013;
Aceptado: 19/02/2014.



A total of 424 Lepidoptera specimens (256 males, 168 females) visiting flower patches of Simsia amplexicaulis were collected. They were found to belong to six families within three super-families representing a total of 23 species: Papilionoidea: Pieridae (2 species), Lycaenidae (1 species), Riodinidae (2 species), Nymphalidae (6 species); Hesperioidea: Hesperiidae (11 species); and Noctu-oidea: Erebidae (1 species). The temporal distribution of these lepidopterans shows a peak of species visiting a patch of flowers between 12:00 and 13:00. Twenty five of the species (93%) were recorded during such activity hourly peak while only two species were found visiting the flowers during most of the day. Twenty species (74%) visited the flowers only once. As far as we know, this is the first time that Cuanopepla bella (Ctenuchidae) is reported visiting flowers of Simsia amplexicaulis.


The basic ecological function of adult Lepidoptera is pollination (Scott 1986, Scoble 1995). Unfortunately, not much is known about the entomophylous properties of plant species from México, and even less about their insect pollinators, especially butterflies (psychophily) and moths (phalaenophily). Pollinators are highly diverse and they are present in several ecosystems occupying various spaces and temporal dimensions (Abrol 2013, Faegri & Van der Pijl 1979). Either large or small pollinators could be equally efficient depending on the plant they will frequent to pollinate (Proctor et al. 1996, Wilson & Thomson 1996). Most pollinators are generalists and very few are known to be species-specific (Gómez 2002). Without any exception all pollinators perform their pollinating function, however not much is known about how efficient the many pollinator species really are.

The size and shape of the flowers clearly influence the type of pollinator that tackles them, but in the case of the small flowers, even though they might be visited by numerous groups of insects, they are mainly visited by bees and butterflies/moths (Abrol 2012, Herrera 1988, Vaughton & Ramsey 1998, Valiente-Banuet 2002).

The daily inflow rhythm of insects towards flowering plants may occur during the course of one day (24 hours), but the flying activity of insects that pollinate plants during light hours has been more frequently recorded (Abrol 2012, Proctor et al. 1996). But what happens during the night hours? What is the temporal rhythm of those insects that pollinate at night? This is a question that needs to be addressed and we should expect answers in the future. In this particular work we address such questions on some lepidopterans who visit flowers and inflorescences whose morphological structures are adapted to be pollinated only by this group of insects (Abrol 2012, Aguilar 1965).

Simsia (Asteraceae) is a genus of herbs and shrubs that contains some 20-25 species distributed in arid and semiarid regions from Southwestern United States south through Central and South America to Argentina (MacVaugh 1984). The greatest diversity of the genus occurs from Central Mexico to Panama, and nine different species have been reported from the state of Veracruz in Mexico (Sosa & Gómez-Pompa 1994). Simsia amplexicaulis is a widespread species that is frequently found along roads and agricultural lands, but also along ecotones of highland pine-oak to cloud forests (Spooner 1990). This is an herbaceous-shrubby plant that can grow up to 3 m high, and bears flowers all year long, but most especially from August to November. The flower heads have diameters from 20 to 35 mm, with 8 to 14 ray florets, orange-yellow 80 to 150 mm long and 25 to 55 disc florets of the same color and 50 to 70 mm long (Calderón & Rzedowsky 2004; Spooner 1990).

This plant species is frequently visited by numerous insects throughout the day, thus our aim with this work was to study, determine, quantify and analyze the Lepidoptera species that visit S. amplexicaulis flowers in the Cloud forests of the Central region of Veracruz State.

Random walks were done along the Coatepec-Zimpizahua región to detect the plants or group of plants with the largest amount of butterflies visiting their flowers. A group of 8 plants of uniform size of about 1.5 m located at a roadside, in an ecotone with the cloud forest, and besides a Coffee-Inga plantation (Coffea arabica, Rubia-ceae - Inga jinicuil, Fabaceae), east of the Coatepec-Xico Road. West and south of the plant patch there is a relict cloud forest sensu stricto (Castillo-Campos 1991; Zolá 1987). The site is located at 1100 m, N 19° 27' 12", W 96° 57' 24". The site was selected mainly because it is surrounded by several ecosystems. Its closeness to the cloud forest (West and South) promotes some shade to 25% of the flowers of the plant's patch.

Lepidopterans species visiting plants in the chosen patch during an 8 h period (8:00 - 16:00) on October 10, 2009 were collected. All visitors were noted, and collected as well as the hour when collected. All data and relevant information was recorded in a field notebook. Insects were collected using an entomological net as described by Beutelspacher (1991). Once collected the insects were placed in jars containing Ethyl Acetate and the insect material was gathered and processed according to Steyskal et al. (1986). Once in the laboratory, they were mounted and spread according to techniques described by Chacón & Montero (2007).

Plants were identified using MacVaugh (1984) keys, and later corroborated with specimens deposited at the XALU herbarium, of INECOL (Instituto de Ecología) in Xalapa, Veracruz. Insects were identified based on Hernández-Baz et al. (2010) (Papilionoidea), Glassberg (2007) (Hesperiidae) and Hernández-Baz (2012) (Erebidae: Ctenuchina). All specimens were collected under the Scientific Collector License code: FAUT-0194 and deposited at the Insect Collection SEMARNAT/CITES/CP-0026-VER/05. A chart was elaborated in order to present the list of visitors by hour. All study material was photographed once mounted.

A total of 424 Lepidoptera specimens were collected, of which 256 were males and 168 were females. They were grouped in three Superfamilies and included in 6 families representing 23 species: Papilionoidea: Pieridae (2 species), Lycaenidae (1 species), Riodinidae (2 species), Nymphalidae (6 species); Hesperioidea: Hesperiidae (11 species); and Noctuoidea: Erebidae (1 species). This last species is actually a wasp moth (Ctenuchina) with recognized diurnal habits. All species collected are shown in Plate 1.

The temporal distribution of the species is presented in Table 1. The peak of species visiting the patch of flowers was between hours 12:00 - 13:00 (Table 1). Twenty five of the species (93%) were recorded during that peak hour while only two species (Pteronymia artena artena, Nymphalidae and Achlyodes pallida, Hesperiidae) visited the flowers during most of the day. Twenty species (74%) visited the flowers only once. As far as we know, this is the first time that Cyanopepla bella (Ctenuchidae) is reported visiting flowers of S. amplexicaulis.

Even though S. amplexicaulis flowers are small, they appear to produce large amounts of nectar (Calderón & Rzedowsky 2004). This seems to be corroborated by the large amount of visits done by butterflies and moths during an eight h period. Curiously enough 74% of the visitors went to the flowers only once, while only two species (7.4%) behaved as constant visitors throughout the day. This pattern has been noticed before with other plant species (Horvitz & Schemske 1990) and appears to indicate that generalist pollinators tend to be more frequent and numerous. This is especially true in the case of skippers (Hesperiidae). Based on the type of visits and visitors, we might assume that the plant is a generalist, which qualifies it as primitive (Ollerton 1999) and far from being a pollinator specialized plant as defined by Janzen (1980) and Gómez (2002).

The patch locations favored the presence of Pteronymia artena artena (Nymphalidae) during all day. Most skippers (Hesperiidae) visited the lower flowers (< 1 m high) with the only exception of Achlyodes pallida which visited flowers at all altitudes in the patch.



This work is part of the project: Bases para la conservación de las mariposas diurnas en los bosques nublados de la zona central de Veracruz (Universidad Veracruzana y PROMEP) y Faunistic study of the Lepidoptera in the state of Veracruz, in the Veracruzana University, code: DGI: 22314 2012122, and the academic team: Entomology and Parasitology, of the School of Biology-Xalapa, Veracruzana University, Mexico., code: UV-GC-248.



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