Panama Butterflies

How to talk about the butterflies on this trip? Well, there were certainly lots of them. Virtually everywhere we went we had butterflies, even in the rain. The problem is that there is no field guide to the butterflies of Panama. Not only is there no field guide but there isn't even a checklist to tell you what species occur in the country.

There is a guide to the butterflies of Mexico ( Mariposas Mexicanas ) and there is a 2 volume field guide to the butterflies of Costa Rica by De Vries that covers only 4 families of butterflies. There is also de Brera's guide to South American Butterflies.

So, what is a novice butterfly watcher to do in Panama???

Well.....what I did was to try to get as good a look as possible at as many butterflies as possible. Then I tried to find the butterfly or one similar to it in the Costa Rica Guide. Then I read the text. Butterflies are tied very closely to habitat needs so I checked to see if the habitat requirements matched and if their range extended into Panama.

The first week of our trip we were in the western highlands of Panama, very close to the Costa Rica border so it was very likely that I would find a match in the Costa Rica guide. Still, this entire list is, at best, tentative.

Plate References from the Costa Rica Guides are offered:
(Most were found in Vol. 1)


Urania moth

Highly Tentative List

  • Swallowtails:
    There were some “Polydamas-type” black and yellow swallowtails (PL 1 #1)
  • Cattleheart sp. (PL 2)
  • various Yellows/Sulfur types
    -a group of large yellows with angled “hooked” FW (like Yellow Angled Sulfurs PL 8 #5 ) were found mud puddling however these leps are said to prefer the rainy season of June/July ???
  • various Whites
  • Shaded-blue Leafwing (PL 13 #6-7)
  • Variable Cracker (PL 21 #13)
  • Yellow Cracker (PL 21 #18)
  • Red Cracker (PL 22 #1)
  • Waiter Daggerwing (PL 23 #12)
  • Anna’s Eighty-Eight (PL 25 #13-14)
  • Faded Eighty Eight (PL 25 #17-19)
  • Blue-fronted Banner (PL 25 #2)
  • Sister sp. (PL 27 #1, #18 or #20)
    several different "sister-types" were seen during the trip
  • White Peacock (PL 28 #12)
  • Banded Peacock (PL 28 #13)
  • Border Patch (PL 29 #6-7)
  • Crescent sp. (PL 30)
    several different types were seen, one very dark, but crescents have a seemingly infinite variety of colorations
  • Mechanitis Tiger-Mimic (PL 30 #4-6)
  • Julia (PL 31 #6)
  • Crimson-patched Longwing (PL 31 #5)
  • Zebra Longwing (PL 31 #9)
  • Tiger-Mimic sp. (PL 34)
  • Clearwing sp
    Who can forget all those bluish clearwings in the rain along Fortuna Road? Unfortunately, clearwings are supposed to have "clear or amber" wings and these were decidely bluish. So.... they looked very like bluish versions of Bolivar’s Clearwing (PL 35 #1) , Terra Clearwing ( PL35 #8) or Zelica’s Clearwing (PL 35 #16).
  • Blue Morpho sp.
  • Satyr sp.
    lots of different satyrs
    • …Usitata types (see PL 48)
    • … Leon’s Satyr (PL 49 #7)
    • … Triaria’s Satyr (PL 49 #13-14)
    • … Euriphyle Satyr (PL 50 #2-3)
    • … Timanthe’s Satyr (PL 50 #12)
  • Red Bordered Pixie (PL 9 #16)
  • Corculum Metalmark (PL 72 #10-12)
  • A long tailed Skipper sp.

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