Regua has just welcomed its first volunteer after almost two years! Bart Coppens just arrived from the Netherland’s with the task of documenting digitally the REGUA moth and butterfly fauna (adults and immature alike).
He has been a keen lepidopterist hobbyist and has made his findings and work available to the world through social media like Youtube and Instagram. So he has become worldwide acknowledged and has performed some consulting work for the butterfly breeding “industry” overseas, including exotic places like Laos and Cambodia.
Now he is excited with his first ever South America trip, sponsored by one of his Youtube followers.
In 2011 REGUA published its first field identification guide, A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, which described and illustrated the 110 species to be found in our area. However, since then there have been a number of taxonomic changes, and a comprehensive paper in the European Entomologist (Vol 11, No 3+4) by Haxaire and Mielke provides the latest list of all the species occurring in Brazil as well as introducing several new species.
All of these species are covered on the website Hawkmoths of Brazil, but of particular interest to the REGUA area are:
A new species Protambulyx pearsoni has been split from P. sulphurea and replaces it in the Serra dos Órgãos.
A new species Manduca exiguus has been separated from M. contracta and has been recorded from the State of Rio de Janeiro but not yet to my knowledge from the Serra dos Órgãos.
Manduca paphus is now recognised as a separate species and has been split from M. sexta.
Nyceryx nephus has been elevated to species status based on a single specimen collected at Cachoeiras de Macacu.
Isognathus brasiliensis has been split from I. swainsonii and replaces it in the Serra dos Órgãos and south-east Brazil.
Eumorpha orientis is now recognised as a separate species and has been split from E. obliquus.
Xylophanes reussi has been split from X. marginalis, but both seem to share the same general distribution.
A new species Xylophanes crenulata has been separated from X. ceratomioides. Only X. crenulata is now thought to occur in the Serra dos Órgãos.
Two new species Xylophanes alineae and X. soaresi have been separated from X. p. continentalis and both are found in the Serra dos Órgãos.
Apparently it is likely that Errinyis ello will be split as well into the type that feeds mainly on manioc, and the type that lives in forest, and the entire complex Nycerx group is also under review.
So I would recommend always using the website now rather than the book, but if you find any errors on the website please let me know and I will correct them.
Most moths feed on flower nectar and thus behave as pollinators. Another part lives for a few hours or days and accumulates fat in the larval stage, so adults barely eat, drinking water instead.
However, several groups of the Erebidae family (ex-Noctuidae latu sensu + Arctiidae) are frugivores, feeding on decomposing ripe fruits. They include the well-known and popular underwings (genus Catocala) from the northern temperate region, which can be attracted by brushing fruit puree over bark and tree trunks.
Some genera of the subfamily Calpinae have specialized in piercing the intact peal of fruit with the proboscis, the mouthpiece typical of 99% of adult Lepidoptera, which in this case has a pointed and barbed tip, allowing the moth to pierce the rind of the fruit to sip its juice and some of them are considered citrus orchard pests.
In our region occurs the colorful genus Eudocima of Pantropical distribution (with species in all tropical regions) exemplified by the individual pictured here on a fallen fruit.
Finally – as a curiosity; – Nature went a little further on with some improvements over the proboscis modifications involved in piercing intact fruits allowing for the appearance of some blood feeding (hamatophagous) species in Southeast Asia capable of piercing mammal skin to feed on their blood, especially that of large animals including local cattle. These are the vampire moths of the genus Calyptra.
The typical feeding habit in this Asian genus is to drink on the lacrimal secretions of these animals, but less than half a dozen species specialized in hematophagy just like mosquitoes.
The Dutchman Jean-Paul Boerekamps visited REGUA in 2018 and returned last week in spite of the global Covid scare, to complete a Bioblitz around the mountainous region of Nova Friburgo and also at REGUA. Though a birder, he has become increasingly a Naturalist and through the digital platform “Inaturalist”, he came to SE Brazil with the mission of photographing and uploading images of all creatures and plants, and inspiring others with his passion!
REGUA’s Bioblitz lasted a week and together we managed to make one thousand different species observations, half of which have been positively identified by the Inaturalist community. JP visited “Waldenoor”, a restored area that slowly shifts into a more mature forest; the green trail, where he was accompanied by Rildo de Oliveira, in charge of patrolling/monitoring the highest and most preserved forests at REGUA; the “Fragment”, where he could walk through a special remnant of well-preserved lowland forest; and the Vecchi reserve, 15 km away from REGUA, composed mostly by open areas, allowing whoever visits it to have a good idea of local biodiversity.
JP photographed many moths that came to the moth wall every evening, attracted by light that strongly stimulates/excites them. One special observation was a moth belonging to the Notodontidae – subfamily Dioptinae.
According to our butterfly expert Jorge Bizarro, this is an uncommon species, which is difficult to identify. Jorge knows that it belongs to the subfamily Dioptinae, a group of diurnal Neotropical moths, many of which have bright winged colours. Identifying certain species on i-naturalist is never easy, so sharing one’s observations allows one to practice the concept of citizen science and allows one to exchange knowledge with others similarly interested in th same subject. This process allows experts and beginners to exchange information.
Now that the Bioblitz is over, we can add observations to ‘REGUA Biodiversity Celebration’, a long term project that is soon to reach 10 thousand observations by the end of this year. If any of you would like to help us, any of you who have visited REGUA may contribute to this project by uploading previous observations. It’s quite straightforward; you just need to create an Inaturalist account and upload your photographs from your computer or your phone. We would really like you to help us achieve this result. Here is the link; https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/regua-biodiversity-celebration and add your sighting! Thanks JP for sharing your passion with us all here at REGUA!
There have been 110 species of hawkmoth recorded in the Serra dos Orgaos and only a further four in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
A recent visit to REGUA by Alan Martin in March 2020 added the 80th hawkmoth species for REGUA, Aellopos ceculus, a day flying moth somewhat similar to the European Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum. It was found laying eggs only a few hundred metres from the lodge.
A further 14 species have been found and photographed close to REGUA, but at higher altitudes than are easily reached within the reserve. Some expeditions to add some of these to the list along with some of the high altitude bird species has to be a priority for future visits.
Hawkmoths are Sphingidae and one of the most amazing insects to arrive at the purpose-built moth wall in REGUA’s garden at night. They are bulky and fly like nitro-fuelled rockets in what seems parabolas bashing themselves in the process coming to land under lamps. Lepidopterists say that they are guided by stars and perhaps they believe they have landed just by one of the billions out in the sky at night.
Curiously, wet evenings are best for the moth wall at REGUA, and it’s hard to see the stars at such times. These moths are important pollinating species for many tree species of the Atlantic Rainforest, but their preferences remain to be researched.
This is an example of Eumorpha labruscae and left Alan Martin author of REGUA publication, Guide to the Hawkmoths of Serra do Orgaos green with envy as he hasn’t seen it. Alan’s book says this is a widespread species and March was a good time to see it on the wall, so hopefully he will catch up with it on a future visit.
Dr Adrian Spalding, president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society in company of Devon’s Marsland reserve director Gary Pilkington visited REGUA in search of insects and birds last October. The weather was not helpful being hot and dry, so together with Jorge, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist, we headed for a night’s “moth trapping” at Bel Miller’s house in nearby Macae de Cima.
The weather at that point changed and a light drizzle started. Bel had mentioned that the weather had also been dry so the rain was most welcome. Before dinner, Gary set up the light and whilst we had our meal, we could see the moths homing in. Dr Adrian was up and down and taking photographs of species that converged by the light. Jorge patiently placed examples of Hawkmoths for identification and send mouth-watering photos to Alan Martin, co-writer of REGUA’s publication “A Guide to the Hawkmoth of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil”.
A multitude of Silkmoths, Tiger moths, Hawkmoths and other micro moths as well as other insects attracted by the light and humid weather came in droves and Adrian said that this must be “the best night EVER I have mothed!” Gary was similarly delighted, his head covered in moths busy taking photos.
A superb Giant Silkmoth visited, Rothschildia hesperus (Linnaeus, 1758). Occurring from Argentina to South USA, this is a canopy rainforest species found from sea level to 1400m. It has a wingspan of 10-12 cm and the male is larger bearing transparent triangular windows in each wing. Females have more rounded wings than males. The adults do not feed, for after mating and laying eggs, and their life’s function is fulfilled.
Dr. Adrian and Gary were in their element. Who wouldn’t be, covered in moths !!
One of the two most common species of hawkmoth found at REGUA is Xylophanes porcus continentalis which is found from Central America to southern Brazil. At least that is what we thought until a new paper was recently published in the European Entomologist by Jean Haxaire and Carlos Mielke. Their paper describes two new species that occur in south and south-east Brazil, and suggests that the entire X. porcus family needs further investigation.
Since 2001 there have been 74 species of hawkmoth (Sphingidae) found at REGUA, from the 110 or so that have been recorded in the Serra dos Órgãos mountains. Arguably one of the nicest is Oryba kadeni which has a distinctive shape and colouring.
Widespread throughout Central and South America, this is this was my first sighting, though it has been recorded at REGUA twice before, once by Nicholas at his house and once by his father Robert Locke. To be more precise, Robert found the unmistakable wings of this moth by his front door, the remains of a meal for a large bat.
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.
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.
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.
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.