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Altha Walker

Type species: nivea Walker
Synonym: Belgoraea Walker (type species: subnotata Walker)

Altha species have a white ground colour, shaded or fasciated with orange or brown on the forewing, the veins in the discal area tending to be picked out in white amid this shading to give a diagnostic reticulate effect. There are prominent dark dots at one third from the apex on the margins of both wings.

Other diagnostic features for the genus are found in the female genitalia where secondary ovipositor lobes occur within the major ones (Fig. 106), and setae on the major lobes are apically minutely branched.

The genus can be divided into two sections, both of which have representatives in Borneo. The first was reviewed by Holloway (1982a) and contains species with predominantly white forewings that are relatively elongate. The female bursa contains a large, single, round scobinate signum. Within the section the Indian subnotata Walker differs from the wider ranging nivea group in lacking the asymmetric juxta and narrow saccus; in this it resembles the second section, but is taken to be sister to the nivea group on the basis of the facies and bursa characters mentioned.

The second section includes the species adala Moore, lacteola Swinhoe, rufescens Swinhoe and contaminata Hampson, and is characterised by broader, shorter forewings more heavily shaded with orange or brown. The signum in the bursa is reduced to a small patch of scobination.

The species peralbida Swinhoe (India) and alastor Tams (Sulawesi) need further examination and are probably misplaced. Both lack the diagnostic secondary ovipositor lobes of Altha and have forewing venation more as in Althonarosa Kawada. They may be better placed in the latter genus.

The larvae of Altha are oval, convex above, without tubercles. Moore (1882-4) described a Sri Lankan species attributed to adala, but probably rufescens Swinhoe, as limaciform, naked, pale green, convex above, with indistinct dorsal and lateral rows of bluish green dots and longitudinal lines, and a sublateral row of white dots. The cocoon is whitish, oval, and the host- plant recorded was Bauhinia (Leguminosae). The larva of adala Moore is described below.

Two species in the nivea group have been reared. Bell (MS) and Sevastopulo (1941, 1946) described the larva of subnotata. The very young larvae are translucent greyish white with a transverse olive brown band anteriorly, centrally and posteriorly, the central one rather broader than the others. The shape is perfectly semiovoid, smooth in later instars with segments obscure, but with a double dorsal series of six transparent glossy humps visible with a lens which persist until the larva is half grown. The fully grown larva is pale bluish green, resembling translucent fat, with a narrow white dorsal band, several wavy lines down the flanks and a yellow sub- lateral stripe defining the ventral area. The larva is sluggish, living on the undersides of leaves, eating from the edge. The dull, hard, smooth, white, ovoid cocoon is found generally between two leaves with a network of
transparent substance resembling snail slime stretched in a wall around it, the leaves superimposed and fixed to the top and bottom of the cocoon.

Host-plants recorded are Bombax (Bombacaceae) Ricinus (Euphorbiaceae), Shorea (Dipterocarpaceae) Tinospora (Menispermaceae), Musa (Musaceae), Alseodaphne (Lauraceae), Mangifera (Anacardiaceae), Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) and Terminalia (Combretaceae), but the range is probably much wider.

Sevastopulo (1944) described the early stages of the Himalayan species associated with melanopsis Strand by Holloway (1982a), the only reference to the life history of a species in the asymmetric juxta group located. The body of the larva is oval, highly convex, pale bluish green, somewhat frosted, with dorsal, two subdorsal and two sublateral rows of pale yellow specks, those of the inner subdorsal rows alternating with those of the outer dorsal rows. The venter is yellowish green. The cocoon is oval, chalky white, spun amongst leaves, concealed under a web of slight, frothing silk. The host-plant is (Thea) Camellia sinensis (Theaceae; tea).

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