Happy freezing Friday bug fans! We’ve just lived through one of the worst Winter weeks we ever had. So we thought we would like to pass along some warm thoughts, thoughts of hot jungle days and warm jungle nights. To be specific, we’re thinking about the Amazon rainforests, because they provide the best combination of hot temperatures and the most diversity of butterflies anywhere on Earth. Let’s set the scene. It’s 95 degrees and 98% humidity. You have been exploring all day and you’re dead tired. You’re carrying 25 extra pounds of camera equipment and collecting gear. You had to drink two canteens full of water just to keep pace with the sweat that is pouring out of your overheated body. Flies, bees, gnats, mosquitoes, and wasps are constantly landing on you to drink the salty sweat from your arms and face. In the midst of these terrible inconveniences a butterfly flies by, and you’re so stunned by its beauty that you forget all of these jungle annoyances. Ignoring your exhaustion, you give chase at top speed just to prolong your observation of this magnificent creature. Today we’d like to introduce you to two of our all-time favorite Amazonian butterflies, Batesia hypochlora and Panacea divalis. (Don’t forget to look at the pictures we’ve posted.)
Our first sighting of a Batesia hypochlora was pretty much as we described the scene above. We were standing on a jungle path when we saw it at a height of about 12 feet. Batesia hypochlora is unlike any other butterfly in the Amazon rainforest. It is only about 3 inches in wingspan, and it has a classic butterfly wing shape. But it has the most overtly gaudy colors of any butterfly we’ve ever seen. The dorsal (upper side) of the wings are a slightly iridescent dark blue with bright pinkish-red bands on the forewings. The ventral (underside) of the wings are bright yellow with green wing tips, and pinkish-red bands. There’s not much pattern, just big splotches of bright primary colors like in a child’s first coloring book. And if these bold colors aren’t enough to catch your attention, Batesia hypochlora usually just glides slowly without flapping its wings, as if it doesn’t have a care in the world. And as we have discussed with other species, bright colors like this usually mean that the butterfly is not edible. So it doesn’t have to fly fast, because its slow gliding flight actually helps it advertise that “eating me will make you sick.” We’ve never seen Batesia hypochlora outside of the forest. Batesia hypochlora is a member of the Nymphalid family of butterflies which is the largest of the butterfly families. But hypochlora is the only species in the genus Batesia. There’s nothing else like it. The genus Batesia is named in honor of Henry Walter Bates, the famous naturalist, who extensively explored the South American rainforests in the 1800’s. It’s a wonderful tribute to have a genus named after you, and especially one with such an incredibly beautiful species as its only member.
Our second choice this week, Panacea divalis, is also a member of the Nymphalid family, and is similar in size and shape to Batesia hypochlora. The genus Panacea includes several similar looking species, with Panacea divalis being the largest. Panacea divalis is also brightly colored. It’s dorsal is a dark slightly iridescent greenish-blue with lots of black pattern markings. Its ventral hind wings are rusty brick-red with the ventral forewings being similar, with some black, white, and bluish-green markings that somewhat mirror the dorsal markings. The flight habits of Panacea divalis are quite different. Usually it flies rapidly and erratically without gliding. It will also venture outside of the rainforest, and will often be seen in adjacent clearings out in the open. Divalis usually rests on tree trunks, and normally turns itself to face head-down with its wings spread flat. Usually this is a camouflage behavior, but Panacea is so brightly colored that it can’t “disappear” against the bark. Both Panacea divalis and Batesia hypochlora can be attracted by rotting fruit or rotting fish bait. The first time we saw Panacea divalis was on the edge of the rainforest where it was feeding on some rotting bananas. As we approached, it flew up to a convenient upside-down perch on a nearby tree trunk. We backed up out of its “comfort zone”, and it flew back to the bait. We tried approaching several times with the same result. Its eyesight is apparently VERY good. Finally we moved on and let it finish its lunch.
Both of these butterflies are spectacular to see in the rainforest. We never get tired of seeing them. It is always an unexpected pleasure. Luckily, you don’t have to go all the way to the Amazon to see them. You can see these magnificent butterflies in our Wonders Of Nature department, beautifully framed and matted as always.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.