Red-bordered Pixie (Melanis pixe) life history
Red-bordered Pixie (Melanis pixe) Life History

Undeveloped eggs

Eggs showing development

Neonate, 6-9-23

First instar (note feeding damage)

Second instar, 6-13-23

Third instar, 6-16-23

Fourth instar, 6-19-23

Fifth instar, 6-22-23

Sixth instar, 6-30-23

Pupa, 7-3-23

Fresh Red-bordered Pixie, dorsal view, 7-10-23

Red-bordered Pixies inhabit the lower Rio Grande Valley because their non-native host plant, Guamuchil (Pithecellobium dulce), is a popular ornamental, especially in older neighborhoods. Candi and Seth Welliver have several plants and, knowing I wanted to rear Pixies from the egg, they gave me several eggs they found in the June, 2023.

Guamuchil leaves and cuttings do not keep well, so I isolated one caterpillar to observe carefully, and I sleeved the rest. I observed 6 instars in the isolated caterpillar. This seemed an unusual number, so I looked online to see if this is normal. The only information I found was an article on a congener, Melanis leucophlegma, in which 5 instars were reported for that species. Perhaps something triggered an extra instar for this Pixie caterpillar. In any event, I now have something to look for if the opportunity presents itself to rear these again.

Face of Red-bordered Pixie (final instar)

The caterpillar gained dark markings on body and face in each of the later molts. The head capsule of the final instar of the isolated caterpillar (pictured) reminds me of a mask such as might be worn at a costume party. When viewed straight on, I suspect the caterpillar resembles a spider, which would certainly intimidate potential predators. Other Pixie larvae I have photographed were not as strongly marked; apparently, this is a variable feature.

The adult emerged about one month after the caterpillar hatched.

Red-bordered Pixie Page