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Preparation of Calephelis female genitalia in situ

     Identification of Calephelis is not easy, even in central Texas, where only three species are known to occur. To ensure the correct determination, it is useful to examine genitalia. In females, diagnostic features are readily accessible without dissection, and mere brushing off the scales from the abdomen tip on a fresh specimen is sufficient for identification. The shape and texture of the posterior margin of the genital plate are diagnostic. After taking a photograph in the wild, it is useful to catch the specimen and to inspect the genital plate thus ensuring that your identification is correct.

 

All images are © Nick V. Grishin

A composite image of Calephelis nemesis female showing dorsal, ventral and two views of the genital plate. No doubt remains about identification.  Texas: Travis Co. Austin, lower Barton Creek, 26-Apr-2008, leg. N.V. Grishin

 

The dorsal image is taken in the wild, unrestrained conditions. TX: Travis Co. Austin, lower Barton Creek, 26-Apr-2008.

 

Then the specimen was caught and ventral image taken in the lab to highlight important field marks. Genitalia were prepared according to the method illustrated below.

 


Fresh specimen of Calephelis female shown on live photographs above, placed on a Styrofoam block.

 

The specimen is pinned in a regular way. 

 

The specimen is mounted upside-down at the corner of the Styrofoam block. 

 

The pin is inserted into the Styrofoam and pushed in until the abdomen of the insect touches the block. 

 

Two pins are used to push wings away from the abdomen and thus to prevent accidental wing damage during the process of scale removal from the abdomen. 

 

Zoom on the abdomen tip densely covered with scales. 

 

Any small brush can be used to remove the scales. 

 

Brushing around the abdomen tip by gentle side-to-side motions. Since scales are not very easy to brush off, some effort and time (under 5 minutes) are required.  

 

After about 100 brush strokes, diagnostic structures are almost visible. 

 

Zoom on the abdomen tip. Genital plate is located just anterior to the ovipositor, and it looks like the last (the 8th) segment on the ventral side of the abdomen. Genital plate is well sclerotized and thus is darker colored and is not as soft as other segments anterior to it. The shape and texture of the posterior margin of the genital plate (just by the ovipositor) are diagnostic.

 

After 200 brush strokes, diagnostic features become clear. Posterior margin of the genital plate is convex, heavily sclerotized in the middle, but less so on the sides, indicating Calephelis nemesis

 

After over 300 brush strokes, the specimen looks almost perfect. Tip of a thin insect pin can also be used to remove some remaining scales resistant to brushing off. Care should be taken not to damage fragile genital plate, thus pin manipulations should be done under magnification.

 

Comparison of the abdomen before and after scale removal. Now, the genital plate can be photographed and the specimen can be spread.

 

Final product, rotated by 180° from the previous orientation and under higher magnification for clarity. Dorsal view of the genital plate. Ovipositor is below, anterior end is above. Some scales still remain, but they do not obscure the diagnostic posterior margin of the genital plate.

 

Dorso-lateral view of the genital plate. Convex margin is clear.

 

Finally, we can assemble all the images of this specimen. If this "dry" genitalia inspection technique does not give desired results, it is always possible to make a traditional "wet" dissection after the specimen is off the spreading board and dries out completely. And the pinned specimen turned out rather well too:

 

Calephelis nemesis   ♀D TEXAS: Travis Co. Austin, lower Barton Creek, 26-Apr-2008, leg. N.V. Grishin

 

Calephelis nemesis   ♀V TEXAS: Travis Co. Austin, lower Barton Creek, 26-Apr-2008, leg. N.V. Grishin

All images are © Nick V. Grishin

 


 



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