Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - HESPERIIDAE
subfamily - PYRGINAE
Tribe - EUDAMINI
Phareas coeleste at bird dropping, Rio Madre de Dios, Peru ©
tribe Eudamini includes 44 genera in the neotropical region, amongst
which are the Long-tailed Skippers Urbanus,
Aguna; and such familiar genera as
The genus Phareas
comprises of a single species
coeleste. The butterfly
is found throughout the Amazonian region.
This species is confined to lowland primary rainforest at altitudes
from sea level to about 800m.
Sapphire is a very elusive species, which is found in association with
ant birds. Flocks of the birds follow ant swarms as they migrate
across the forest, feeding on insects disturbed by the marauding ants.
The butterflies in turn follow the ant birds, feeding on their
droppings, from which they obtain vital alkaloids. Once a butterfly
has located a fresh dropping, it will return to it many times over a
period of an hour or so.
The butterfly has an incredibly
fast and agile flight. It is normally seen as a brilliant flash of
blue, scorching a tortuous route in and out amongst the rainforest
trees at a pace so fast that it is difficult to comprehend how it can
do so without colliding with something.
On each sortie the butterfly covers
a distance of about 50 metres, and abruptly lands on the leaf of a
tree, typically at a height of about 4 metres. There it will bask for
two or three minutes with wings fully outspread, before shooting off
on another sortie.