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.
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.
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.
There are thousands of species of Butterfly and Moth in the Amazon Rainforest.
Here are just three types:
The beautiful swallow tails would come and suck moisture from my skin. Their black legs and tongues, as thin as a strand of cotton, tickled. There is something about the shape of these butterflies with their forked tails, which is immensely pleasing and the colours are astonishing. Scarlet and black, turquoise and black, black with a sharp green edge, gorgeous.
When not on my skin, they would take the moisture from cleaning sponges and soaps left on the harbour side for washing up.
The Owl butterfly preferred the wooden legs of the lodge and could have blended into the wood with their brown and cream colouring, had it not been for the distinctive eyes on each wing, which deterred predators. They are amongst the largest of the forests butterflies.
The small, dead moth, I found on the table. Beautiful even in death.
Zebra-Heliconius Butterflies are one of the thousands of butterflies that fly through the forest every day.
They are nectar feeders, favouring Passiflora, but as can be seen they have a soft spot for water melon. I would cut them a large slice just so I could watch them.
The adult Zebra butterfly is toxic to potential predators ie. birds, reptiles and amphibians, so is able to wander through the forest at a leisurely pace.