Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - HESPERIIDAE
tribe - PYRRHOPYGINI
Satipo, Peru ©
subfamily Pyrrhopyginae comprises 163 known species, most of which
are found only in the tropical rainforests and cloudforests of South
America, although a few reach as far north as Mexico, and a single
reaches Arizona. They
are characterised by having bodies which are very large in
proportion to the wings. Other characteristics include a massive
muscular thorax, compressed abdominal segments, prominent eyes, and
antennae with recurved clubs.
Several genera including
Jemadia and Elbella have a
pattern of hyaline "windows" on the forewings, and are marked with
stripes and bands of brilliant blue and white. Other genera such as
and Pyrrhopyge lack the hyaline
windows, and are characterised instead by having bright pink or red
markings on the head and / or on the tip of the abdomen.
The 38 Pyrrhopyge
species are all similar in appearance, having a black ground colour
and white or orange outer margins. In bright lighting conditions the
wings reflect a metallic sheen which varies in hue from green to
blue according to angle of view. In most species the head and tail
are both bright red or orange. In several species such as
telassina there are orange
shoulder-stripes on the thorax. In a few species including
thericles the basal area of the underside hindwings is white.
occurs throughout the tropical zone of South America, from Colombia
to Bolivia and Paraguay. It has 11 named subspecies.
Pyrrhopyge phidias bixae ( and friends ! ),
Rio Madre de Dios, Peru ©
occurs in lowland rainforests and transitional rainforest /
cloudforest habitats, at altitudes between about 200-1800m.
Males of this
species are often seen on the ground imbibing mineralised water from
wet rocks, small pools, or at the edges of rivers or lagoons. They are
usually seen singly, but sometimes 3 or 4 will congregate to feed at
bird droppings on the forest floor.
When settling to feed they
initially hold their wings erect, but after a few moments spread them
flat, particularly in cloudy or hazy conditions. If disturbed they
usually dart up, circle around a nearby tree and settle on it's
foliage until such time as they feel it is safe to return to their
Pyrrhopyge phidias, Satipo, Peru ©