Butterflies of New Mexico: The Brushfoots IX: The Leafwings (Nymphalidae: Charaxinae)

by Steven J. Cary

The Brushfoots (Nymphalidae). This family is our second richest in terms of number of species and perhaps the most variable in terms of sizes, colors, patterns and behaviors. Despite the obvious differences in wing morphology, members all share a unifying structural character: on adults, the forelegs are reduced to tiny, brush-like structures, leaving only four functional legs. Many of our most familiar butterflies are members of this family. Pursuant to Pelham’s (2019) catalog, we have ~100 species in ten subfamilies.

Leafwings (Nymphalidae: Charaxinae). The Leafwings are abundant and widespread in tropical latitudes, but we have only two species in New Mexico. Adults are brightly colored dorsally, but excellent dead-leaf mimics when wings are closed. Adults are strong, agile flyers. Larvae eat Euphorbiaceae.

  • Tropical Leafwing (Anaea aidea)
  • Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)


Anaea aidea (Guerin-Meneville) Tropical Leafwing (updated December 24, 2020)

Description. Anaea aidea is dark orange above. Males have a darker wing border and a forewing cell-end bar. Female uppersides have a dorsal hindwing marginal band of light spots and the postmedian dorsal forewing band is light orange. Hindwings sports a stubby tail. Undersides resemble dead leaves. Range and Habitat. Tropical Leafwing inhabits subtropical woodlands the Caribbean and Mexico. Its range includes the extreme southern US. It is typically a stray in southern New Mexico (counties: Ch,DA,Ed,Hi), although it may breed here seasonally below 5000′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat Euphorbiaceae, chiefly Croton species. Flight. Tropical Leafwings are multivoltine where climate allows. New Mexico records span June 17 to November 29. Adults perch in and patrol around deciduous trees in desert oases, stopping to feed at tree sap. Anaea aidea sometimes wanders north. Comments. Kilian Roever suggested that Anaea aidea had a breeding colony in Guadalupe Canyon (Hi) until a flood eliminated the larval host.

Tropical Leafwing (Anaea aidea) Lower Ice Canyon, Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, Dona Ana Co., NM; October 20, 2016 (photo by Rob Wu).
Tropical Leafwing male (Anaea aidea) La Estanzuela, Nuevo Leon, MX; October 22, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Tropical Leafwing female (Anaea aidea) Frontera Audubon, Weslaco, Hidalgo Co., TX November 3, 2013 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).


Anaea andria Scudder            Goatweed Leafwing (updated December 23, 2020)

Description. Goatweed Leafwing males are vivid, spotless orange above. Female uppersides have a cell-end black spot and a banded appearance. Undersides resemble dead leaves. Range and Habitat. Goatweed Leafwings live from Colorado to Indiana, south to Florida and Arizona, then south well into the Neotropics. In New Mexico it occurs statewide but for our northwest quadrant (all counties but Ci,LA,MK,RA,SJ,Va) preferring Upper Sonoran scrubby canyons from 4000 to 7500′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat crotons (Euphorbiaceae). Scott (1992) found an empty larval nest and adults on Croton texensis near Mangas Springs (Gr) and that is presumed to be the primary host for Goatweed Leafwing in New Mexico. Adults overwinter. Flight. Anaea andria has two to three flights in New Mexico spanning March 3 to October 23. The summer brood flies June to August. Their young fly September to October, hibernate through winter, then fly and mate from March to May. Adults are very tree-oriented; they siphon tree sap and perch in trees to emulate dead leaves. Comments. Anaea andria was first reported from New Mexico when Harry Kendon Clench found it at Sitting Bull Falls (Ed) on 12 September 1960.

Goatweed Leafwing male (Anaea andria) near Portales, Roosevelt Co., NM; July 7, 2015 (photo by James Lofton).
Goatweed Leafwing male (Anaea andria) Lexington Wildlife Management Area, Cleveland Co., OK; April 2, 2014 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Goatweed Leafwing female rescued from pond surface (Anaea andria) southeast Curry Co., NM; October 2, 2010 (photo by James Lofton).
Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria) Sierra Grande, Union Co., NM; June 23, 1997 (photo by Steve Cary).