Butterflies of the Amazon Rainforest. Part Two. Swallowtails and Pierids.

Butterflies of the Amazon Rainforest. Part Two. Swallowtails and Pierids.

Butterflies are exquisite creatures, simply breathtaking, but they don’t obey the rules of beauty. They can often be found in the strangest, ugliest places.

Swallowtails are beautiful butterflies that come in a variety of colours, from a jet black with either scarlet or emerald edging to soft turquoise with black edging and many more. Their hind wing has a tail-like projection that gives the butterfly its name.
They feed from the nectar in flowers, but could also be found on the perfumed soaps we used for washing up. An ugly backdrop of tatty steel pads, worn brushes and scruffy sponges only accentuated their delicate, extraordinary beauty.
They also came and settled on my hands and arms when I sat by the river. Taking moisture with their long black tongues or proboscis and tickling my skin with their three pairs of cotton-thin legs.

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Pierid butterflies were also attracted to the washing up equipment left by us on the harbour decking. They often came in flocks.
Small and pale yellow/yellowish-green in colour with tiny eyes on the wings, the pierids resembled European Brimstones. They feed on nectar in flowers.
Apparently Pierids were called the ‘butter-coloured’ fly by early British naturalists, thereby giving these insects their common, collective name.

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The proper name for a flock of butterflies is a swarm or rabble. How strange…can’t think of a worse description for creatures of such delicate beauty.

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Zebra Butterflies. Visitors reach my Blog with question,’Is the Zebra found in Amazon?’

Is the Zebra found in the Amazon rain forest? This question leads people to my blog. The answer is no, no zebras.
But, there are Zebra Butterflies. Beautiful butterflies with a taste for melon.
The Zebra Heliconias (Heliconius charitonius) are black with cream or white stripes. They eat pollen and sip nectar from passionflower plants, which makes them mildly poisonous to predators.

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Butterflies of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Morphos, Zebra Heliconias, Postman and Owl butterflies.

The Amazon Rainforest contains two and a half million species of insects. Some of them belong to the beautiful and large order of insects, the Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies and moths.

Butterflies have three stages of development from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis. Many of the caterpillars in the forest are poisonous or have hairs which can cause intense irritation. See the second stage here in this poisonous caterpillar.

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The body of the butterfly is divided into three parts..the head, the thorax and the abdomen. The legs and wings are attached to the central area, the thorax.
The most noticeable thing on their heads are the large eyes…clearly seen in the female Morpho photo.
Male Morphos (Morpho menelaus ) have iridescent, laminated wings of a rich turquoise blue, sometimes edged with black. They are stunning, large, butterflies which seem to float on air. They are breathtakingly beautiful.
The female Morpho is dull in comparison, but with a certain charm and incredible eyes.
These butterflies sip juices from rotting fruit.

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Butterflies feed on flowers and each species favours particular flowers. The Heliconius feed on various kinds of Passion flowers which makes them mildly poisonous to predators. The bright colouring of their wings sends out a visual warning that they will be unpleasant to taste. Some other nontoxic butterflies mimic the colouring of the Heliconius for protection.

The Zebra Heliconius (Heliconius charitonius) is black with cream or white stripes. They eat pollen and sip nectar from passionflower plants.
I cut a piece of water melon, which they were partial too, just so I could watch them.

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The Postman butterflies (Heliconius melpomene-also known as Longwings) are black with striking red markings, again to warn predators off. They feed on nectar and also pollen from Lantana or verbena, Hamelia and Palicouria. This one was attracted to the plastic container in which I put decaying food used for mulching plants.

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Owl butterflies (Caligo memnon),so named for the large eye-like markings on their wings, use a different method of protection from predators, who seem to find the eyes on their wings confusing and off putting. They may also use the ‘eyes’ to draw away attacks to their heads.
Owl butterflies feed on Heliconia and Musa (includes bananas). Their main predators are small lizards.
Fluttering under the house in the late afternoons, they had to avoid the large Tegu and small Ameiva lizards that lived there.

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A fascinating fact: The Passion flower plant uses mimicry to deter predators, just as some butterflies do. Butterflies will only lay their eggs on clear, pristine leaves, free from another females eggs, to give their caterpillars a good start in life. The Passion flower, to deter this and prevent all its leaves being eaten, produces mock eggs on its leaves and stems.

Amazon Rainforest plants and flowers. ‘What colour is the rainforest?’

What colour is the rainforest? Flowers and plants of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.

This question led someone to my blog. My answer illustrated by photos and text below:

The rainforest is naturally predominantly green. Every single shade of green imaginable, forever changing as the sun seeps and moves through branches and leaves to lighten and darken the forest. Because the forest trees are constantly in a state of regeneration and leaf shedding, colours we associate with autumn and winter, with death and decay: yellow, bronze, gold, orange, red, lay within the mix.
But there are other colours too, these belong to the flowers and plants. The Amazon Rainforest has over 55,000 plant species.
Some of the rainforest flowers have tissue paper thin petals. Amongst these Convolvulus, known as Bindweed, in shades of sky-blue and white. Their delicate beauty a wonder in the tough conditions of the forest.
Many plants have thicker, more robust leaves. The Caladium bicolor amongst them. As their name suggests their leaves consist of two colours, an inner pink and an outer green. These plants with large, heart shaped leaves can be found in abundance in the forest growing in bright clumps.
I had to negotiate a clearing teeming with hundreds of small, chirping grass hoppers to dig up these plants for my verandah. As well as being beautiful they served as a shelter for geckos and small lizards.
The Lobster Claw Heliconia is typically Brazilian, loud and brash. The flowers hang down, a vibrant orange and yellow. There are other varieties of Heliconia not quite so brazen, but always with a red, orange and yellow flower. The more delicate Heliconia, I planted close to the lodge, came from a shady part of the forest.
Coleus grow almost everywhere too. The large plant in the photo taking root in a log. The velvety leaves have a rose-pink inner and a dark, rich, velvety maroon-red outer.
And, scattered amongst the bushes and trees, struggling for existence and almost invisible are apparently insignificant, but vitally important, small flowers of lemon yellow, soft pink, sky blue and ivory white. Little beacons of pollen and nectar for the butterflies and hummingbirds, bees and bats.
The river too holds a flower, the Victoria Water Lily, the largest water lily in the world. The huge, flat green leaves with a deep pink underside lay on the water, strong enough to hold a human in its middle. The flower is a showy, creamy white on the first night and a pale pink on the second night.
These are just a few of the many flowers and plants of the rainforest. They give the forest small bursts of either vibrant, or gentle, contrasting colour. Their struggle to find a home, sunlight and water, under the often thick canopy of trees, a testament to natures survival strategy.

Photos:
Convolvulus, Caladium, Heliconia – Lobster-claw, Heliconia, Coleus, Victoria WaterLily (Victoria Amazónica), Miscellaneous.

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Missing my Rainforest home.

I miss my forest home so much. I haven’t been back for several years due to ill health, but it’s with me every moment of every day.
If you ever see a lady, walking through the aisles of a supermarket, suddenly stop at the fruit section, shut her eyes, breath in deeply and then smile, a dreamy smile of delight. That will be me.
The smell of mangoes, pineapples or melons would have sent my senses into a frenzy of activity and transported me back to my forest home: I will be sitting on a boulder, fish nibbling my toes, parrots squawking overhead, insects chirping. Or, I will be laying up to my neck in clear water in a cool stream, guarded by a sentry Collared Kingfisher, the only noise coming from Swifts hurtling through the startling blue sky above at breakneck speed. Or, I will be sitting on the wooden harbour boards, feeling the tickle of an aqua-blue Swallow-Tailed butterfly sucking moisture from my skin with its black cotton-thin tongue, while listening to the mournful cry of a Yellow-Ridged Toucan calling from a high tree deep in the forest.
If the lady you see opens her eyes and you see tears, that’s me.

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Moths of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. White Witch (Thysania agrippina) or Black Witch moth (Ascalapha odorata)

Moths of the Amazon Rainforest. Black Witch moth (Ascalapha odorata) White Witch (Thysania agrippina)

In general moths in England are relatively small and even the big ones are still only hand palm size, so it was with surprise and awe that I come to know the Amazon Rainforest moths.
One particular moth appeared everywhere. It was greyish brown with an exquisitely intricate pattern on its wings. It crept up the wooden walls of my home, sometimes onto the ceiling and I found it in hotel bathrooms,stuck to tiles and oblivious to me showering below.
One extraordinary individual covered two large floor tiles in a hotel lobby. I ran for my camera, having asked the receptionist, broom at the ready, not to touch it. Of course, by the time I got back it had gone, the broom returned to the cupboard and she was sitting painting her nails, a tolerant smile on her lips. I think they saw me as a kind of ‘cat woman’ with my obsession for birds and insects.
In some Latin American countries the Witches are thought to be the bringer of curses or death, but I never heard a Brazilian condemning them with such powers.
The Witches fed on fruit from the forest. Because they can feed almost continually in Rainforests, moths produce fatter caterpillars and therefore bigger adults, resulting in these huge insects. In fact, the White Witches are considered to have the widest wingspan of any moth in the world.
Not all the moths were big, of course, some were tiny. The little black one in the photo could always be seen near the ashes of bonfires, almost blending into the background. The pale yellow and pink moth I found on a table.
Photos taken of moth taken in shower room = mist on lens. White Witch (Thysania agrippina) or Black Witch moth (Ascalapha odorata)

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Amazon Rainforest Climate….Wet Season in Amazon Rainforest

The Wet Season (from diary)

The wet season starts at the end of November and continues until May. Rain usually falls in the morning, light showers that cool the air, but quite often a great storm will rage through the forest, lasting for hours.
During the storms, walls of heavy rain move across the forest, saturating everything in their path. Thunder crashes above with such force the ground trembles. The noise must be the loudest natural sound on earth. Despite being warned by lightening of the impending boom and rumble, it always made me jump.
High winds bend and shake the trees and leaves, twigs and branches are thrown through the air. The lodge verandah, when finally the storm ends, is covered with broken twigs, leaves, battered insects and other bits of natures debris. The wooden boards shone as if freshly varnished. The grass roof, rearranged by the storm, let in rays of sunlight………
The rains change the views from the lodge dramatically. Gone are the vast meadows of grasses and wild flowers. Instead stretching to the river mouth is now gleaming, deep water. Deep enough for the dolphins to swim and breed in, deep enough for the caiman and deep enough for the return of lunch. No longer do we have to eat dried up, smelly carcasses, instead the dish is plump and tasty. Yes!
Osprey return to winter in the heat of the forest and sit high on tree tops. Herons and kingfishers return to fish closer to shore on fallen branches.
The rain is welcome, bringing with it fresh water, food and enough water to row the canoes from shore to shore, so much nicer than slurping through the thick, clinging, river bed, mud.
The wet season is back, all is well in the forest.
The first photo shows view from lodge in wet season. The next two photos show same view in dry season. The last photo is of an Osprey and a Heron, happily fishing together.

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