Butterflies of the
Amazon and Andes
Family - HESPERIIDAE
tribe - PYRRHOPYGINI
Pyrrhopyge sergius ( left ) with
Perisama lebasii ©
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 species in the genus
Pyrrhopyge are all similar in appearance, typically having a
black or dark brown ground colour, and white or orange fringes. In
most species the head and tail are both bright red or orange, and in
some species such as telassina there
are orange shoulder-stripes on the thorax. The wings are either
black or dark brown, and in sunlight both wing surfaces reflect a
metallic sheen which varies in hue from green to blue or purple
according to angle of view. In some species such as
phidias the basal area of the underside
hindwings is white.
occurs from Colombia to Bolivia, and has 7 named subspecies.
Pyrrhopyge sergius, Rio Kosnipata, Peru ©
This species occurs primarily in lowland and mid-elevation primary
rainforests, but can sometimes be found at altitudes as high as
Pyrrhopyge sergius ( bottom ) with
Perisama canoma ( left ) and Perisama
are usually seen when discovered on the ground imbibing mineralised
water from wet rocks, small pools, or at the edges of rivers and
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 and circle around a nearby tree, and then settle on
it's foliage until such time as they feel it is safe to return to
their feeding spot.