Category Archives: Butterflies

Meet the Monarch and Queen butterflies

These conspicuous brick-red butterflies with shiny black stripes and a variable number of white dots belong in the subfamily Danainae of the Brush Footed butterflies (Nymphalidae). Most of the genera in this group fly in tropical Africa and Indo-Australasian regions, being mainly blackish, creamy and greenish-white. However, the genus Danaus features mostly large bright brick-red species in the Americas with a couple of exceptions in the Old World. They are long lived migratory butterflies with the Monarch being worldwide famous for its yearly massive migrations between Canada and central Mexico.

Butterfly eggs (© Micaela Locke)
Daniela’s student, professor Daniela and Jorge Bizarro (© Micaela Locke)

These butterflies are a popular model among researchers who study biochemical inset-plant relationships due to the easiness in rearing them under laboratory conditions in large numbers. Danaus species retain some of the toxic secondary chemical compounds of their food-plants which protect them from predators during their adult life span. Daniela has been researching these relations for decades going back to UNICAMP and the group that specializes in these insect-plant interactions there. Ever since she moved on to the UFRJ in Rio de Janeiro she continued her research in REGUA and our region where both  Danaus erippus and D. gilippus (slightly smaller and with more white dots than previous) are common dwellers. Their larvae feed locally on Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), a perennial weedy plant occurring in sunny areas along roads, trails and open field plantations. Recently, a new foreign species of Asclepias arrived in some coastal areas in Brazil raising some questions and she is now testing how well Danaus erippus larvae perform on it in terms of growth rate and survival.


A rare encounter after 12 years of surveys of the Cunha Forest Fragment.

For our guests and nature photography visitors enthusiastic for Insects and Arachnids, a popular spot to visit while in REGUA is the Onofre Cunha forest fragment. It is one of the largest lowland forest fragments extant in the area but grossly cut in two pieces by the Funchal tarmac road. It has been selectively logged, hunted and some areas have been degraded by surrounding farm field activities but nevertheless it still boasts many interesting, rare or hard to see species with some regularity (the opposite of reforested areas exhibiting much arthropod population fluctuations) and many new records over the years originated there.

Doxocopa linda (©Marcos Campis)

So, no wonder that after 12 years of regularly visiting, screening and recent monitoring of butterflies in the Cunha fragment, the most localised and rare of South America’s Emperor Butterflies (genus Doxocopa) just showed up very quickly and displayed itself sun basking in a sunny trail spot during early morning just enough to be photographed. Doxocopa laurona is an endemic Atlantic Forest species known only from a few widely scattered localities from sea level to below around 900 m across south-east Brazil: Rio Doce valley (MG and ES states), Petropolis (type locality) and coastal hills in the lakes area around Saquarema and Cabo Frio (RJ), Antonina (PR) and Joinville (SC).

Doxocopa laurona (© Alan Martin)

The photo depicts an unmistakable male of Doxocopa laurona which belongs to a group of four species where both sexes are mimetic of Adelpha Sister Butterflies (usually only Doxocopa females resemble Adelpha) with the males of 3 species bearing a peculiar purple-violet sheen under a certain opening wing angle. So, it is easy distinguished from males of the more common and widespread Doxocopa linda where both sexes are purple less. Curiously, this late species flies together over the entire tropical continental area, overlapping with the other 3 taxa featuring purple males which are curiously mutually exclusive taxa that do not overlap their flying areas. This is probably because the purple colours of the males are secondary sexual characters that help females in choosing the proper conspecific male thus avoiding hybridization between distinct species. So D. linda is the only species that flies together with others in this group and locally shares territory with D. laurona

On the same day a female was spotted during the routine monitoring walk in the same trail and thought to be Doxocopa linda, but as it turned out, it now could be either this or a female of D. laurona because females are devoid of purple colours and are look very similar.

Clearwing Ithomiines: Atlantic Forest butterflies greedy for toxic plants

Mimicry is a very widespread phenomenon in Nature, where some species imitate the morphological and chromatic patterns of others, benefiting from some kind of protection due to this similarity to the model. The later usually has some physical or biochemical characteristic that makes it ‘hated’ by predators. In the case of butterflies, it is usually the presence of toxic (most often alkaloids) and/or unpalatable substances in the body of the models.

In the Americas there is an endemic tribe of the Danainae subfamily of Nymphalidae: the Ithomiini butterflies comprising about 350 species – many of them popularly called ‘glasswings’ or ‘clearwings’ due to the transparency of much of the surface of their wings – where most participate in mimetic rings between themselves and with other lepidopterans, including the subfamily Heliconiinae and some diurnal moths.

In most cases. the chemical compounds involved in toxic or “bad tasting” (unpalatable) butterflies are incorporated during the larva stage from feeding on their food plants. In the case of glasswings the plants used by the larvae are partly Apocynaceae (a source shared with the Danaiini tribe) but the majority feed on Solanaceae, a botanical family which includes popular vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and ‘jiló’. However, many species sequester these alkaloid compounds already in adulthood; especially the males which suck alkaloids from the flowers and roots of shrubs, lianas or weeds of the Asteraceae family or decaying dry leaves of Boraginaceae.

During the tour of one of the butterfly monitoring transects (a section of the Yellow Trail) recently cleared for maintenance, I was able to observe over the course of a week how groups of various species of glasswings congregated on the roots of an Eupatorium shrub (Asteraceae) – especially in the early morning and afternoon – as exemplified by the photo below. The species observed sequestering alkaloids from these exposed roots were the following: Episcada striposisEpiscada sylvo, Hypothiris ninonia daetaHypothiris euclea lapriaIthomia agnosia zikaniIthomia drymo and Pseudocada erruca.

© Jorge Bizarro

A group of at least 6 Ithomiini species feeding on toxic compounds from an Asteraceae root (Eupatorium sp.) (© Jorge Bizarro).

Siproeta stelenes meridionalis (Fruhstorfer, 1909) Malachite

Siproeta stelenes  (© David Geale).

For some reason green is not a common or popular colour for neotropical butterflies. Contrary to other tropical regions in the Old World, there are a mere handful of greenish butterflies in the American Tropics (some hairtreaks like CyanophrysEvenusArcasErora,  the brush footed Nessaea and a few swallowtails) among them the very large malachite green and brown mimetic species with large squarish wings with scalloped margins. This butterfly is a perfect mimic of the heliconine (longwing butterflies) Philaethria wernickei and P. dido, from which it can be distinguished by the larger size, less elongated wings and the heavily serrated hindwing outer margin with 3 small knobbly tails.

Philaethria wernickei (© Antonio Lopes).

It is a common species found over a vast area of the Americas from southern Texas, Florida and the West Indies into Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and south Brazil. Adults are species typical of open forest found from sea level to 1,500 metres in humid or seasonal disturbed forest habitat such as clearings, river banks, roads, edges, secondary growth and even orchards or gardens where many species of weedy or grassy Acanthaceae thrive (Blechum, Justicia, Ruellia). Adults are both attracted to flowers and rotten fruit, they often sun bask in lower foliage on trails, roads or gardens, and females patrol short stretches of this habitat looking for their host plants. The larvae are olive-black with pinkish and white tubercles, thus very reminiscent of toxic Parides and Battus swallowtail caterpillars. The pupae are pale lime-green with a few short spike-like spines.

Eueides isabella dianassa


Eueides isabella dianassa individuals around a Passion fruit bush (© Micaela Locke).

This is the Eueides isabella dianassa, belonging to the Nymphalidae family, subfamily Heliconiinae. This species flies all year round, however is often seen on the drier months of winter.
This species has a short life cycle, about 2-3 months and often remains close to the host plant (passion fruit/passifloras) where larvae feed on their leaves. The female is slightly larger than the male and lays isolated eggs on the underside of the leaves. The larvae, known as caterpillars, feed on leaves by scraping the lower surface while they are small.

Male individuals performing an “8” shaped movement around the female (© Micaela Locke).

Eventually when they become larger, they gnaw the edges of the leaves. When they reach the fifth age (after changing ‘skin’ 4 times to continue growing after stretching) instead of changing the skin, they abandon the plant and look for other sheltered places (walls, windows, dry wood or tree trunks) where the pupa or chrysalis is formed, staying another 4 to 6 weeks until the adult butterfly emerges.

On a sunny winter afternoon, mating was recorded. The males performed an “8” shaped movement around the female releasing pheromones. The female, already receptive, had her motionless abdomen waiting for the male. There were 3 males flying around the female, but in this case, the female only chose one to mate.


A Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil now available

Co-author Jorge Bizarro with our new Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil
Co-author Jorge Bizarro with our new Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil

Tropical America is one of the regions on Earth with the greatest animal and botanical biodiversity. Brazil, due to its continental dimensions, is included in the roll of the top five countries with the greatest biological wealth, which includes a rich fauna of butterflies with two different aspects: the fauna of the Amazon and that of the Atlantic Forest.

With the advent of digital cameras, many citizens began to spend their leisure hours on nature walks and adventures, using these cameras to record the beauties they are observing, obviously butterflies are one of the preferred targets of these ecotourists within the group of insects. But there are so many species, that for those who are not specialists in this group (Lepidoptera), it is difficult to identify the majority of them. Unfortunately and unlike birds, the butterfly guides published in Brazil are counted on less than a handful, precisely because the number of species exceeds 4000, with around 1000 in the Atlantic Forest biome alone!

Thus, it is with great satisfaction and joy that we finally managed to publish this guide for the Serra dos Órgãos, the central mountain range of the State of Rio de Janeiro, after 4 years of exhaustive research, writing and searching for natural photos of the species included (just over 800), which encompasses almost all of those registered for the area. The book was made possible with the collaboration of more than a dozen people (amateurs and professionals, such as the late Luiz Claudio Marigo) who made their photos, data and records of butterflies in south-east Brazil available. This area encompasses 90% of the Brazilian butterfly species listed as threatened or vulnerable under the IUCN criteria, with 20% of them occurring in the Serra dos Órgãos.

Unfortunately, in order to make a minimum of 500 copies, we had to choose the English language to cover a potential larger audience that could find some use in the book. Even though a bilingual edition was originally considered, it was later found that printing costs, sales price, etc. would be excessively high, and our aim has always been to provide an extremely accessible identification tool for the general public.

Orders worldwide can be made from NHBS. Orders within the the UK may also be placed direct with co-author Alan Martin (please send a cheque payable to the ‘Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust’ with your name and address to Alan Martin, Alureds Oast, Northiam, East Sussex, TN31 6JJ, England).

New REGUA book off to print: Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Cover of A Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, due to be publoshed soon.
Cover to REGUA’s forth book A Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Back in 2015 Alan Martin and Jorge Bizarro started work on a guide to butterflies to accompany the three REGUA books already published that are specific to the REGUA area (hawkmoths, dragonflies and birds). What started as a three year project has taken five years, partly because the number of species recorded in the area is more than had been anticipated but also because it proved very difficult to source photos of some of the rarer species.

The book is now about to be printed and it covers 803 species (excluding grass skippers) with descriptions, comparisons to similar species, global distribution and notes on the ecology, behaviour and host plants. All but three of the species are illustrated with over 1,300 photos of live specimens or where not available, photos of pinned specimens. There are also introductory texts for each family, subfamily and tribe.

The book will be distributed by NHBS, but in the UK is best ordered from Alan Martin at a reduced price of £30 plus £5 postage (please see our Publications page for details). All the profits from the sale of the book will go to REGUA.

Photographing butterflies for the forthcoming Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Pygas eighty-eight <em>Paulogramma pygas</em>, photographed at REGUA, May 2019, showing the "88" on the underside of the hindwing (© Robert Locke)
Pygas eighty-eight Paulogramma pygas, photographed at REGUA, May 2019, showing the “88” on the underside of the hindwing (© Robert Locke)
The stunning Four-spot Sailor <em>Dynamine. posverta</em> male, REGUA, June 2019 (© Robert Locke)
The stunning Four-spot Sailor Dynamine. posverta male, REGUA, June 2019 (© Robert Locke)

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 the Pygas eighty-eight, and Dynamine postverta also known as the Four-spot Sailor.

P. pygas is restricted to much of high altitude South America. Its common name refers to the underside of the hindwing 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 REGUA continues 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.

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 photographed near REGUA

Castalia Green Mantle <em>Carea castalia</em> photographed near REGUA (© Nicholas Locke)
Castalia Green Mantle Carea castalia photographed near REGUA (© Nicholas Locke)

I recently came across this beautiful iridescent green butterfly several kilometres from the reserve. Jorge Bizarro, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist and Research Coordinator, 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 website Learn about Butterflies (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 they take off are 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 as we would love to see them. For contact details click here.

Idomeneus Owl-Butterfly photographed at REGUA

Idomeneus Owl-Butterfly <em>Caligo idomeneus</em>, REGUA, September 2010 (© Michael Patrikeev)
Idomeneus Owl-Butterfly Caligo idomeneus, REGUA, 14 September 2010 (© Michael Patrikeev)

Michael Patrikeev, recently sent us this photograph of the rarely seen Idomeneus Owl-Butterfly Caligo idomeneus, taken at REGUA on 14 September 2010.

Jorge Bizzaro, REGUA’s Research Coordinator, and very knowledgeable lepidopterist explains why this species is rarely encountered. “This individual from REGUA is a rarity, because it only flies during sunrise when most lepidopterists are sleeping! The main characteristic of Caligo idomeneus is the very straight and defined median white band of the forewing present on both sides.”

For more photos of the sighting see Michael’s website Wild Nature Images.

Further information in Idomeneus Owl-Butterfly Caligo idomeneus:

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)
Syrmatia nyx (dorilas) (© Richard Raby)
Syrmatia nyx (dorilas) (© Richard Raby)
Theope sp. (© Richard Raby)
Theope sp. (© Richard Raby)

Butterfly rarity, Ortilia polinella, found at REGUA

Female <em>Ortilia polinella</em>, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)
Female Ortilia polinella, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)

Work on the next REGUA field guide, A Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, 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, and 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!

The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing. 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).

Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:

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 at the moth wall.

Butterflies along the São José Trail

Catocyclotis aemulius (© Arnold Wijker)
Catocyclotis aemulius (© Arnold Wijker)
Mesosemia meeda (© Sandra Lamberts)
Mesosemia meeda (© Sandra Lamberts)

The São José Trail wanders 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, and dragonflies, etc.

Last year I was privileged to accompany a couple of two excellent amateur nature photographers, Arnold Wijker and Sandra Lamberts, with a keen interest in butterflies and birds, for a walk on São José 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 were the metalmarks (Riodinidae) seen. 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:

  • 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 State 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 here.

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

More images can be found at, and a paper about the Paleo-Biogeography and Phylogny of the Riodinidae butterfly family can be downloaded at

Temenis huebneri, a new butterfly for REGUA

A male <em>Temenis huebneri</em>, the first record of this species for REGUA, photographed on 29 May 2016 (© Robert Locke)
A male Temenis huebneri, the first record of this species for REGUA, photographed on 29 May 2016 (© Robert Locke)

Confined to central and south America, the butterfly genus Temenis is composed of three species: T. pulchra, T. laothoe, and T. Huebneri. T. pulchra is found from Central America to the Andes. T. laothoe is known from Mexico to northern Argentina, and T. huebneri is more restricted to the northern and south-east Atlantic forest. T huebneri has been found in Bahia state and specimens are held in the collection of Stephan Attal.

Robert Locke took this photograph (right) of Temenis huebneri at REGUA on 29 May 2016, which is a new species for the list of the butterflies at REGUA, and also new for Jorge Bizarro, REGUA’s Research Coordinator and 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.


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 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.

Small is Beautiful

The task of ‘checklisting’  butterfly fauna in tropical rainforests usually demands a lot of hours spent in the field.    Armed with a good camera, a pair of binoculars and sometimes a hand net or fermented fruit bait.

Panthiades phaleros L
Panthiades phaleros L. seen twice around the Lodge (© Jailson da Silva ‘Barata’)

Around 20-30% of the local butterfly species can be sampled in 5-7 days in the height of the flight season and in the correct habitats.   These are mostly common or easy to spot species, associated with natural or manmade disturbed and transition environments.

In the tropics the number of species is high but the same does not apply to the number of individuals found and populations, which can be quite scarce and elusive.   That is why developing a more complete list can take over five years of intensive field sampling.

The checklist starts with the big showy butterflies (Brushfooted, Whites, Swallowtails, Skippers), but with time it is the elusive tiny hairstreaks, metalmarks and skippers that slowly grow the list.    A close look at them really shows how intricate and beautiful the patterns of some of these creatures are.

At REGUA, new records for the butterfly checklist usually come from the ranks of Hairstreaks (Lycaenidae) and Metalmarks (Riodinidae), two closely related families.

The last new records have been mostly the fruit of our Lodge Guests’ photographic skills.    Often these species are more easy to see and photograph on hilltops feeding on flowers, along forest hedges or trails, while sunbasking at early morning, after sunrise and in sunny spots inside the tropical forest (clearings, streams and river margins).    Metalmarks are famous for coming back and perch on the same exact spot at a particular hour of the day, year after year.

Callephelis sp.nov R
Grassy open area Metalmark: Callephelis sp. nov R (© Richard & Siri White)

In REGUA, some places where these rainforest jewels can be seen more frequently are: hilltops (for example the trees around the Lodge swimming pool and at the top of the Red Trail), clearings and trail edges (i.e., parts of the Green Trail, Valdenoor’s open area, the São José Trail) and some old forest fragments (like the Onofre Cunha and Lengruber areas).


The Caledonia mountain excursion is another highlight for higher altitude species of Hairstreaks and Metalmarks, especially from February to late April.

Strymon ziba
Strymon ziba male perching at the top of the Red Trail (1004m) (© Jorge Bizarro)

Another interesting issue contributing to the checklist growth is the occurrence of very similar patterned species, sometimes even in very distinct genera, which once the confusion is sorted out can add another record to the list!


Milkweed butterflies at REGUA

Queen Butterfly <em>Danaus gilippus</em>, REGUA (© by Jorge Bizarro)
Queen Butterfly Danaus gilippus, REGUA (© by Jorge Bizarro)

Milkweed butterflies from the genus Danaus are an emblematic group due to their incredible migration routes, colouration, multi-trophic interactions and so many other interesting aspects of their life histories. The Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus has been extensively studied in North America, and just recently the Southern Monarch Danaus erippus has been considered as a separate species from Danaus plexippus. Last week, Pedro Ferreira (an undergraduate student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro( UFRJ) and Daniela Rdrigues (Monarch project main researcher) have found eggs of both the southern monarch D. erippus and the Queen Butterfly D. gilippus at REGUA.

Both species use milkweed Asclepias curassavica as a host plant. Thanks to Jorge Bizarro and Sidenei, who have indicated nice spots with milkweeds and butterflies, as well as the planting of some milkweed in tha last winter, they were able to find both the Southern Monarch and the Queen Butterfly in the wetland area. We are interested in conducting some experiments on larval behaviour and adult cognition of both Danaus species. For the moment, the Southern Monarch seems to be commonly seen all through the year, and the Queen Butterfly is fairly easy to see at higher altitudes, like in Salinas where this photo was taken.

A rare Orange Kite-swallowtail butterfly shows its wings at REGUA

Orange Kite-swallowtail <em>Protographium thyastes</em>, 9 December 2013 (© Nicholas Locke)
Orange Kite-swallowtail Protographium thyastes, 9 December 2013 (© Nicholas Locke)
Orange Kite-swallowtail <em>Protographium thyastes</em>, 9 December 2013 (© Nicholas Locke)
Orange Kite-swallowtail Protographium thyastes, 9 December 2013 (© Nicholas Locke)

Some of our spring days can be very hot and it’s not surprising that many animals can be seen drinking water. On 9 December, as I looked for the evidence of the Red-billed Curassow chicks that were seen a couple of months ago by a local farmer, I crossed the path with a couple of remarkable swallowtail butterflies.

They appeared to be drinking water from a little trickle that crossed the rocky road base from which they drank inbetween hastily fluttering up and down the short section of the road. Often the two butterflies met and with the appearance of being entwined spiralled up into the sky for some 20 feet to then fall apart and resume their road surface drinking.

These are Orange Kite-swallowtails Protographium thyastes and only seen at this time of the year. The caterpillars can be are found on Annonaceae, or the extraordinary custard apple trees as well as Lauraceaetrees.

These butterflies are fairly rare and they are characteristic of the low altitude vegetation of the Atlantic Forest. Mimicry is common in this species to confuse their predators. It’s great that the butterflies indicate the good state of the habitat at REGUA.

Considering their beauty, we certainly hope these butterflies can be seen more regularly at REGUA.

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.