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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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!
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 FritillaryMelitaea 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 Justiciaspp. as foodplants (Acanthaceae).
Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday morning Jorge found this beautiful blue butterfly, the Glittering Sapphire Lasaia agesilas, in the office yard of which I got a photo to share with you. According to Jorge, Alan Martin was the first to see it at REGUA (at the waterfall) and obtain a photographic record. This is a male. The female has no blue colouring. It comes in the yard in the morning and then forages elsewhere, flowers and wet clay being its preference. Common in lowland forest, its distribution ranges from northern Argentina to southern Mexico, the caterpillar feeding on Zygia and Inga.
On 12 January I decided to read on the veranda of Volunteer House 3. Just after the rain stopped, my attention was caught by something that looked like Battus crassus, an Aristolochia vine feeding Troidini swallowtail not common in this time of the year, or its smaller mimic Heliconius sara apseudes. But something seemed not to fit, so I stayed seated on my chair observing the butterfly insistently circling the Lime tree and noticed there were no flowers at all on it. Oh oh, this could be a female laying eggs? But wait a minute, Battus swallowtails don’t lay eggs on Citrus trees! With this ‘Red alert’ I got up and ran to see closer.
It vanished for a while, came back and perched for a minute on a top branch, close enough to see that the forewing looked like Battus crassus, but the hindwing had a series of blue lunules, absent from the mentioned trodin. I couldn’t figure out what it might be, not a Mimoides sp. because these have red dots on the body and lay eggs on Annona and Lauraceae, so it just came to my mind that it could be something that I have never seen in 17 years of living in Brazil, a female of Heraclides androgeus laodocus! It came back twice and I saw it lay one egg. I was so excited that I forgot to run for the camera and then it vanished. I have found five eggs. I’m going to try to rear a couple of the eggs laid in the lab, and see if I can get nice pictures of the recently emerged adults. This is for sure a gorgeous butterfly, and only 15 m from the REGUA administration office!
This is not only a new REGUA record, but also new for the Três Picos State Park – PETP! I have seen just one male in Boca do Mato, above Cachoeiras on the road to Nova Friburgo. The male is huge, even larger than Heraclides thoas brasiliensis, the species more commonly seen sipping water from mud around the wetlands.
Although chordate animals (those true vertebrates having a dorsal nerve) draw more attention from the general public, the smaller universe of arthropods such as insects, spiders, scorpions and crustaceans constantly surprise and provide us with an equally bewildering diverse and beautiful selection of animals. The diffusion and popularity of digital photography has just recently brought this peculiar world to the eyes of the general public and interest on these smaller creatures. We will now post some news on some interesting or rare bugs seen at REGUA, starting with the sighting of a couple rare small and delightful butterflies from the metalmark family (Riodinidae).
The top of the Red (Elfin Forest) Trail has been providing new records in the last couple of years for REGUA, the Três Picos State Park and even the state of Rio de Janeiro. Butterflies use this forested mount for their practice of ‘hilltoping’, an insect behaviour that seeks to facilitate the finding of mates, perching places, etc, in populations of fewer individuals rather scattered over a large territory.
The first new record for REGUA, know previously only from Teresópolis, is this superb yellow Adelotypa bolena butterfly. This specimen was photographed by Katarina Samara on the top of the Red Trail, a graduate student from Manchester Metropolitan University while doing some research on Blue Manakin populations.
The second new specimen was a small Morpho, Semomesia geminus, a new state record, now seen and photographed three times at REGUA: top of Red Trail and nearby Elfin Forest (September 2010), Green Trail (November 2011) and recently on the Schincariol-São Jose Trail (June).
Another rarity and new record at REGUA was seen and photographed on a shortcut of the Brown Trail (August) around the bird lodge. This small brown with orange edged Dachetola azora, is a male perching on a hilly secondary dry forest area. In March, a female was also found during an expedition to the Caledonia peak.
The genus Agrias Doubleday, 1844 (Nymphalidae: Charaxinae) is commonly believed to be one of the gems of Neotropical butterflies. They are well known for their intense colours but sadly an object for collections. These Charaxine butterflies are powerful flyers and mostly spend their time on the forest canopies living on a diet of primarily fruit. An example in Europe of this family is the “Rajah” or Charaxes jasius (Linnaeus, 1767).
Only one species occurs in south and south-east Brazil, that being the Agrias claudina (Godart, 1824), with two subspecies, one A. c. anetta (Gray, 1832) from the Atlantic Forest and the other A. c. godmani (Fruhstorfer, 1895) found in the Cerrado of central Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro the former species was frequently seen in Tijuca forest and around Jacarepagua but with forest loss and more urban expansion the last state record was from Guapimirim, where it was collected by Henry Pearson in the 1970s.
We were most excited to learn of two recent photographic records of Agrias claudina which were taken almost simultaneously, the first by Richard Raby, taken at his Marica lodge of a male in January this year and the other at REGUA some 80 kilometres away by Robert Locke last September (see picture right), just by his courtyard in Guapiaçu, feeding on Pitanga fruits (Eugenia sp.). The males have sharpened folded forewings and totally atrophied front legs that characterize their preference for flight rather than a more sedentary existence.
The old plant nursery of REGUA was located near a small stream and surrounded by secondary and riparian forest, making it a very attractive playground for all kinds of insects, such as butterflies. Actually, it was an excellent spot to observe the rather elusive metalmarks (Riodinidae) and magnificent hairstreaks (Lycaenidae). It was not unusual to see female butterflies ovipositing on the young tree saplings, attracted by the tender leaves and shots; a couple of new REGUA records were found by rearing some of those caterpillars.
Last year REGUA’s nursery was moved to an open sunny area, by the side of the reserve main gates, thus potentially becoming less attractive for the mentioned arthropod fauna. So, on 29 March it was quite a surprise and joy to see a female of one of the largest south American hairstreaks, Marsyas Hairstreak or Cambridge Blue Pseudolycaena marsyas (Linnaeus, 1758), a flying ‘piece of the Sky’ – laying eggs on seedlings of at least three different species of Leguminosae (Pterocarpus violaceus, Inga sp. and Mimosa sp.). Not only is REGUA planting forest, but the saplings are moved to the field already carrying some of its related insect fauna!
Further information on Marsyas Hairstreak Pseudolycaena marsyas: