Natural history of the Cuban endemic skipper Chioides marmorosa (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)
The False Locust tree, Hebestigma cubense (Kunth) Urb. (Fabaceae), is the only known host-plant of Chioides marmorosa (Herrich-Schäffer, 1865). Life-history of this skipper includes egg, larvae (five instars), pupa and adult or imago. Duration in days is as follows: eggs = 3‒5; larval phase = 31‒43, pupa = 13‒35. The principal natural enemies are two parasitoid wasps (Chalcidoidea) and the ant Monomorium floricola. Last instar larvae may undergo diapause because availability of food.
During part of the last century, some entomologists suspected that the Cuban endemic skipper Chioides marmorosa (Herrich-Schäffer, 1865) (Hesperiidae: Eudaminae) was already extinct. Now, we know that it is a widespread species throw the major island of Cuba, although having small populations in each locality. Most of the available data on its natural history has recently been obtained from observations on a small population from San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa province, western Cuba.
Host plant. Larvae of this relatively rare skipper feed on leaves of the False Locust tree, Hebestigma cubense (Kunth) Urb. (Fabaceae), locally called “Frijolillo”, “Cucharillo”, “Guamá piñón” or “Jurabaina”, in dependence of the place. No other host-plant is known for it. The young plants may be completely defoliate or severely affected by its feeding activity.
Eggs. Oviposition occurs since February to June, on the back of very young leaves. They are whitish, globoid, 15- to 18-costate, having a diameter of 0.8‒0.9 mm, and a similar height. Incubation period varies from 3 to 5 days. Usually, 1-3 eggs (rarely 4-10) are deposited on each leaflet.
Larval diapause or dormancy. Once was defoliate the branch or the small shrub, most of the larvae of C. marmorosa remained without feeding into their respective shelters during more than a month. This behavior suggests the existence of a short-time dormancy or diapause.
Larval shelter. Larvae of the first instar cut almost entirely a semicircular slice (3‒4 mm long) of the leaflet border, bend it and then they fix the slice with silk threads. In this task they may employ four to five hours.
Larvae of the second and third instars make a larger but similar shelter. Nevertheless, larvae of the fourth instar make shelters that greatly resemble those of the last instar but smaller, create by juncture of two or three leaflets. In this last case, the shelter is internally covered by a fine silky layer.
Larvae of the last instar made a cocoon or whitish case of thick silk usually protected by a leaflet around it. The shelter has a major aperture for the larval access, whereas it ends in a small irregular hole. Sometimes the silky shelter may be stuck to the leaflet, the rachis or the branch; but occasionally it may be firmly fixed, lengthways, to a branch.
Most of the silky shelters are initially protected for cuffs of the leave made by the larvae, but when food is scarce then the vegetal wrapping the silky shelter is also eating by them. Length of the shelters is 25‒45 mm.
Pupa. After adult emerges, the pupal exuvia remains into the silky cocoon. The pupal phase was of 13‒35 days. The longest periods happened on the winter season.
Imagoes. The adults emerge predominantly early in the morning. Imagoes were observed while they were sucking on inflorescences of Hebestigma cubense and Wedelia calycina (Asteraceae).
Parasitoids and predators. Micro-wasps belonging to an undetermined species of Eulophidae (Chalcidoidea) have been recorded as parasitoids of the larvae of Ch. marmorosa. Eggs are usually attacked by parasitoid wasps belonging to the family Encyrtidae (Chalcidoidea), as well as by the flower-ant Monomorium floricola (Jerdon, 1851). It is suspected that certain vertebrates (birds, geckoes, frogs) predate on the larvae, too.
According with field observations on the studied population, only 5% of the eggs are capable of reaching the imago stage.
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