New for REGUA, the rarely seen butterfly Memphis polyxo

<em>Memphis polyxo</em>, REGUA, 15 May 2013 (© Nicholas Locke)
Memphis polyxo, REGUA, 15 May 2013 (© Nicholas Locke)

Memphis polyxo is one of the rare and resplendent Leafwing butterflies that feed on fermented fruit and organic material whilst some have been seen even seen feeding on animal carcasses. The Memphis genus is a Neotropical species spanning from southern USA to Argentina, though M. polyxohas a distribution from Colombia south to Bolivia and southeast Brazil. The species was found and named by British Entomologist Herbert Druce in 1874 from a specimen originating in Rio de Janeiro state. Nothing much is known of its biology, though the late Herbert Miers from Joinville, Brazil, states that a female was seen ovipositing on a laurel tree (Lauraceae) in the forest canopy.

This species is mostly associated with quality forest canopy coming to the ground to feed. It is a primary forest canopy,shade loving and a dawn/crepuscular feeding butterfly so you can imagine our delight when it was found in one of the laboratory windows around mid afternoon on 15 May 2013, flapping against the glass in an effort to escape. Jorge immediately got out his especially prepared butterfly ‘Cachaça-fruit-jam’, smeared some on a tissue and waited for it to land on it after smelling the delicacy with its antennae. Sure enough there the butterfly landed and was busy slurping up the fermented jam and nothing would convince him to fly away. We took many photos, blew his wings open to reveal the blue patches and let him eat to his hearts delight.

This is a new species for REGUA and the Três Picos State Park, and could well happen to be among the less than half dozen registered or even seen in RJ state. This shows us that even at REGUA, miracles never cease to occur and yet another rare forest species has been noted as a result of our reforestation on the lowlands close by.