Category Archives: Butterflies

2019 Update

Dear Friends and Supporters of REGUA 

Yet another year has passed and Raquel and I, on behalf of everyone at the REGUA project, would like to share this update that is just full to the brim of encouraging news. 

The Guapiaçu Valley (© REGUA)

The mission statement of the project is the conservation of the Guapiaçu watershed achieved through the implementation of four principle programmes; protection; restoration; education and research. 

Land Purchase is a visceral part of REGUA’s protection programme and in 2019 REGUA purchased or (at the time of writing) is in the process of finalising the purchase of various parcels of land to integrate into the Reserve of 338.5 hectares/846.25 acres. This would not be possible without the continued generosity of our supporters. 

REGUA employs 10 rangers from the local community and their work consists of principally patrolling the forests along 45km of the reserve’s trail network. The aim of the patrolling is to show REGUA presence and discourage hunting.  Coming from the local community the rangers are able to share news and discuss any concerns which enables them to be part of the decisions made and work done here.  Sponsorship supports some of our rangers enabling us to increase our team as land purchase increases the size of the reserve.

Our Reforestation Team (© REGUA)

REGUA continues to reforest as part of its programme in habitat restoration. The project has now planted over 520,000 trees since 2005. Tree planting is not an easy task, but with support from many individuals, and grants from companies and supportive conservation organisations, REGUA has planted tough areas and results are heart-warming. Increasing the overall forest cover, reducing edge effect, and creating and strengthening forest corridors, which offer greater areas for biodiversity, are vital. 

Our education programme thrives with the out-reach programme to local schools meeting over 2,270 children. We have 19 enthusiastic young people in our young ranger programme and have met just under 200 school teachers and received 80 tutors on our teacher courses. All of which continues to spread our message of conservation and the value of the wonderful landscape and biodiversity in to the local communities.

Taking our education programme to local communities (© REGUA)

Over 2,000 individuals have participated in training courses and research work at REGUA and our reputation with major universities continues to grow. 

The results have led to protocols in tree monitoring established by the RJ Government; on-going experimental plots; long term monitoring plots to measure tree growth; carbon sequestration studies; seed exchange and hosting technical workshops at REGUA as well invitation to participate in seminars and congresses.

Our protection and increased continuous forest, made REGUA a suitable project to launch the tapir reintroduction programme, a fact which we feel is an clear endorsement of the work we are doing. The reintroduction project is run by the Rio de Janeiro University. REGUA currently has nine tapirs roaming in the nearby local forests. This attracts public attention and reflects the value of a safe nature reserve. Sadly things are not always straightforward and two casualties showed that bats, anaemia and infections are to be reckoned with.

Lowland Tapir reintroduction (© REGUA)

Tourism at REGUA has continued to increase as a result of its reputation spread by word of mouth, internet and social media promotion, report writing and reviews. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, and guiding helps to make for a pleasurable and productive time. The bird life continues to attract visitors and groups from around the globe, but similarly dragonfly, butterfly and amphibian groups are visiting. Rio is an international hub and makes the REGUA an easy place to visit being just under two hours from the airport with a remarkably preserved habitat. 

Our plans for the future are clear, we have to keep developing and promoting our work independently. REGUA wishes to expand and consolidate through land purchase and complementary programmes. Tourism continues to be an essential component of REGUA’s fund-raising.

The conservation principles and ethos has attracted political interest and with the aim of securing water resources, the Government has declared the Guapiaçu watershed as strategically important for conservation. 

Restoration in action (© REGUA)

Brazil continues to be a key area for global conservation, but it’s not an easy country to work in.  Located in a global “hotspot”, the Atlantic rainforest biome, located in an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) as defined by Birdlife International, REGUA is an “Outpost of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve”. 

Perhaps REGUA is not pristine habitat nor is it the home to some of the more charismatic species instantly recognised by the general public, but our main contribution is that we are repairing and organising damaged ecosystems. REGUA is showing that this different approach, will one day be vital for repairing tropical forests around the globe. 

Three RPPNs areas have been constituted and two more are waiting to be approved, taking us up to second position in the State list of protected private areas. Our conservation efforts are being recognised and they are a source of inspiration to people visiting anxious to see what the fuss is all about!

This year REGUA was able to put more land into protection, plant more trees, publish more science and receive more visitors. As a result we are
influencing public politics as to the regional importance of this Guapiaçu
watershed and encouraging others to follow us. 

We could not be prouder of our efforts. We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Xmas and a wonderful New year.

King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli

Here’s to a great year ahead – and hoping for more great sightings like the King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli in September 2019!


Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team 


Butterflies of REGUA

Robert Locke is visiting us at REGUA and we know how he enjoys taking photographs of butterflies, an interest that he has enjoyed for many years.

Two species he found and photographed recently are Paulogramma pygas (previously Callicore) also known as Pygas eighty-eight and Dynamine postverta, also known as Four-spot Sailor.

P. pygas showing the “88” on the underwing (© R Locke)

P. pygas is restricted to much of high altitude South America. Its common name refers to the underside of the wing which shows an “88” shape in the pattern.

D. postverta, is restricted to much of western lowland South America, preferring woodlands and farmland.

Both are beautiful butterfly species and both male and female will be featured in a new book currently being prepared on the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, the surrounding mountain range to REGUA and one of the most biodiverse regions of Brazil.

The Serra dos Órgãos mountains range is a biodiversity hotspot and REGUA is considered to be a very well preserved and protected area within this range.

As we continue to increase the area under our protection, creating corridors for wildlife and strengthening the range of trees planted, we are securing the future for all its inhabitants. These two wonderful species of butterfly are part of the beauty to be found here.

D. posverta male (© R. Locke)

Should you like to visit REGUA and take photographs that could be featured in the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos publication, we would be very happy to receive you!  


Carea Castalia at REGUA

I recently came across this beautiful iridescent green butterfly several kilometres from the Reserve.

Castalia Green Mantle Carea castalia (© Nicholas Locke)

Jorge Bizarro, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist and head of research, confirmed the example as a male Carea castalia, also known as Castalia Green Mantle. Jorge had previously seen the same species on REGUA’s brown trail two years ago.

Adrian Hoskins, on his “learn about butterflies” website (Amazonia section) describes the family Carea as being some of the most beautiful butterflies on the planet and indeed coming across this individual, I could not believe the iridescent green on the thorax and wings.

These butterflies are stated to be restless and once take off difficult to follow in surrounding undergrowth which perfectly confirms Jorge’s experience of the butterfly he saw at REGUA.

As Jorge and Alan Martin are writing the book on Butterflies found at REGUA and the Serra dos Órgãos region, this photograph could well be included.

Should you have photos of butterflies seen here at the Reserve, please feel free to email them to us at aregua@terra.com.br as we would love to see them.

Giant Owl-Butterfly

Michael Patrikeev, recently sent us this photograph, taken at REGUA.

Jorge Bizzaro, REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and very knowledgeable lepidopterist explains its taxonomy:

Idomeneus Giant Owl-Butterfly (Caligo idomeneus) in Guapiaçu Ecological Reserve, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“This individual from REGUA is a rarity… because it only flies during sunrise when most lepidopterists are … sleeping! Caligo idomeneus… the main characteristic is the very straight and defined median white band of the forewing present on both sides.”
For more information from Michael’s website see here :http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Lepidoptera/Butterflies/Nymphalidae/Morphinae/Caligo%20idomeneus.html

Butterfly enthusiast Richard Raby visits REGUA

Renowned Atlantic Forest bird and butterfly guide, Richard Raby visited REGUA over the Carnival season. His aim was to escape the drums and processions in his home beach town of Maricá which is only about one and a half hours drive from REGUA.

Richard organises tours to Rio de Janeiro and has followed the REGUA project for many years. He was impressed with the species seen on the lowland trails in the restored forests along the trails by the wetlands. He told us that he would normally only see some of these species within mature forested parks.

Walking around the wetlands was the perfect place for him to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity. Whilst with us Richard was able to find and photograph some interesting butterflies, a few of which are pictured here. This just reinforces our belief that our restoration efforts are really working!

Augiades skipper (epimethea) sp. (© Richard Raby)
Augiades skipper (epimethea) sp. (© Richard Raby)

Calospila sp. (© Richard Raby)
Calospila sp. (© Richard Raby)

Synnatia dorilas (© Richard Raby)
Synnatia dorilas (© Richard Raby)

Theope sp. (© Richard Raby)
Theope sp. (© Richard Raby)

Butterfly rarity

Ortilia polinella
Female Ortilia polinella, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)

Work on the next REGUA field guide, Observation Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, is progressing at good pace, and with it lots of new knowledge about the local butterfly fauna, together with some novelties, new records from guests, volunteers and visitor’s photographs have been consistently pouring in.

One notable rarity was found by Duncan McGeough, a volunteer from Germany in October 2013, just 30 metres from the REGUA office. Ortilia polinella (A. Hall, 1928), a crescent butterfly, is a cousin of the Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxia from Europe. Known from less than a half-dozen localities in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, and also very seldom found in collections (only three females and six males in the Natural History Museum, London) this was a superb find!

Adults are mainly forest species that dwell in sunlit areas like trails, clearings, forest edges, etc. It’s biology is unknown, but other species in the genus use Justicia spp. as foodplants (Acanthaceae). The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing.

Duncan has also helped with the creation of the REGUA moth leaflet that guests can pick up at the lodge, featuring 60 common moths easily spotted in the moth wall.

Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:

Type specimens photos: http://butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Ortilia_polinella_a.htm

Higgins revision of Phyciodes/Ortilia: http://archive.org/stream/bulletinofbritis43entolond#page/119/mode/1up

Professor Proudfoot’s Work!

Walking the 50km of trails at REGUA is fascinating for birders and naturalists alike. Altitudinal range spans 30 – 2000m and there is a richness of invertebrates and plants to match the diversity of birds that draws the majority of visitors to REGUA.    All classes of arthropod are present in abundance and there are many interesting patterns of distribution waiting to be identified and investigated.

Dobsonfly Corydalidae (©Andrew Proudfoot)

REGUA’s lodge garden has a roofed, whitewashed wall complete with mercury vapour lamp generating many new records of moths for the Reserve and for Rio State.    The wall often reveals a wealth of other interesting invertebrates such as this Dobsonfly (Corydalidae).   Many of these creatures are difficult to see in the forest probably because they are residents of the tree canopy.

In the forest there are chance encounters with exciting species such as the White Witch Moth (Thysania agripina)  Noctuidae with a huge wingspan.

December to Febuary is the Brazilian summer and usually a hot rainy season and time of maximum plant growth.   This is, of course, an excellent time for all insects and amphibians.   Whilst August to November is the Brazilian Spring and busy for birdwatching, it is also good for insects.    Only March to July are a little quieter.

Witch moth Thysania agripina (© Andrew Proudfoot)

There is a profusion of wonderful butterflies.  Some, like the 88, (Diaethria clymena) are very common.   The most famous neotropical butterflies belong to the Genus Heliconia, with their distinctive strap-shaped wings and bright colours.   These insects were shown to have co-evolved with their food plant, the different species of passion-vine (Passiflora). The vines put out new shoots irregularly and the butterflies must live a long time to be able to search out new growth and lay a full complement of eggs.

Another spectacular group of insect are the various species of huge Morpho butterflies which flit through the forest under-storey.

Diptera are interesting and diverse. There are three common sources of food that can provide for a profusion of flies: dung, carrion and some species of freshly emerged fungus. Parasitoid ichneumonids and tachinids search out the larvae of butterflies and moths whose living tissues they will feed on until they finally cause their death.

Ants are predators, roaming leaf and shoot for opportunities or different species will farm leaves with the help of fungus.

Volunteer Researchers (Lee & Peter) in the forest (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Spiders must guard against predatory wasps and some of these are very large indeed.

Beneath the placid exterior of the forest, termites work to undo the conversion of CO2 to sugar; every now and then a crash is heard acr

oss the forest as another giant tree succumbs to their tiny jaws.

There is much work to do to find out how many species of arthropod exist in these rich habitats.   We are only in the earliest of stages investigating how all these myriad species interact in Mata Atlântica.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer

Walking on the São José Trail

The São José trail wanders gently inside secondary forest at least 50 years old, where Bananas used to grow.   It has many sunlit spots and small clearings along the main trail, which really favours the presence on nice perching spots of a plethora of both forest and canopy dwellers like butterflies, shield-bugs, robber flies, moths, dragonflies, etc.

Catocyclotis aemulius
Catocyclotis aemulius (© Arnold Wijker)

Last year I was privileged to accompany a couple of two excellent ‘amateur’ nature photographers – Arnold and Sandra – with a keen interest in butterflies and birds for a walk in that trail.    We spent a lovely morning walking the trail butterfly watching and photographing from its beginning on the Brown Trail, all the way to the Rio do Gato and the water filter that belongs to the Kirin brewery and soft drink plant.

The highlight was the metalmark (Riodinidae). This family had its origin in South America, then expanded to the Old World Tropics and recolonised South America, where around 90% of existing species occur today.    The metalmark family has seen the most new species records for REGUA since the first survey which finished in 2009… and this time we came back with some amazing records:

  • Mesosemia meeda
    Mesosemia meeda (© Sandra Lamberts)

    Calospila parthaon – a species officially known from the Amazon basin only, so this is a new state record; seen on multiple days in the main trail.

  • Theope pedias – a new Três Picos Park and REGUA record, and might also be a new state record.   We found a small population near the water filter, with plenty of individuals flying lazily around the wet patches.
  • Mesosemia meeda (very rare, second ever record) and an unidentified female that tentatively belongs to this species, also bluish.
  • Catocyclotis aemulius (rare and at its southernmost distribution area)

Other more common species seen were: Juditha azan azan, Melanis unxia, Eurybia molochina and Leucochimona icare matatha.

Jorge Bizarro

With grateful thanks to Arnold Wijker and Sandra Lamberts.   More images can be found at :  https://Observation.org

For further reading:
REGUA and Tres Picos State Park preliminary list of butterflies:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/62403691/Soares-et-al.pdf

Paper about the Paleo-Biogeography and Phylogny of the Riodinidae butterfly family:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2015.08.006

New butterfly for REGUA list

Confined to central and south America, the butterfly genus Temenis is composed of three species, T. pulchra and T. laothoe and T. Huebneri.

T. pulchra is found from central America to the Andes.   T. laothoe is known from Mexico to northern Argentina.    T. huebneri is more restricted to the northern and south east Atlantic forest.

A male Temenis huebneri, photographed by RB Locke
A male Temenis huebneri, photographed by RB Locke

The red version,  T huebneri has been found in Bahia state and specimens are held in the collection of Stephan Attal.

Robert Locke took this photograph of  Temenis huebneri at REGUA, a new species for the list of the butterflies at REGUA and also for Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and a keen Lepidopterist .

Photos required for 4th REGUA book – Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos

One of REGUA’s objectives is to encourage a wider interest and knowledge of the incredible biodiversity of the Serra dos Orgaos. REGUA has already published three books covering Hawkmoths (2011), Dragonflies and Damselflies (2015) and Birds (2015).

Now Jorge Bizarro and Alan Martin are working on a 4th book covering the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos. This is a mammoth task and will cover about 500 species, of which we have so far written the text for Papilionidae (28 species), Pieridae (36 species) and are now working on Riodinidae.

Each species text will include a description, notes on similar species, distribution and ecology plus of course photographs where available. An example is shown below.

butterflies-of-serra-dos-orgaos-eg

We are still missing good photographs of many of the species that will be covered in the book, so we would welcome any photographs of butterflies taken at or near REGUA which should be sent to Alan Martin at alanjmart@gmail.com. It may take another year to complete the texts, so there is still plenty of opportunity to take those pictures, and of course every picture will be acknowledged if used.