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Butterflies of the Amazon rainforest
 
Queen Flasher
Panacea regina  BATES, 1864
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - BIBLIDINAE
Tribe - AGERONIINI
 
 introduction | habitats | lifecycle | adult behaviour
 

Panacea regina, male, Manu, Madre de Dios, Peru
 
Introduction
 
The genus Panacea contains 3 known species, all confined to the neotropics. They are all characterised by having blackish uppersides with extensive iridescent blue / turquoise markings.
 
The underside hindwings of all species are reddish. In Panacea procilla the hue is dull reddish brown, overlaid with broken wavy black lines and a series of submarginal ocelli. In prola the underside is bright red, and devoid of markings.
 
The species featured here - Panacea regina, is the largest in the genus and has thin black markings and vague ocelli on the underside hindwings. It was discovered by the great explorer and naturalist Henry Walter Bates, and named in honour of Queen Victoria ( Victoria regina ) in 1864.
 
It often shares it's breeding sites with Panacea prola, but is usually outnumbered by that species. It differs from prola on the upperside hindwing in having a row of suffused dark submarginal spots, and a thin dark wavy line that terminates close to the tornus. There are also differences in the forewing markings - in regina the outer dark median stripe forms a parabolic curve, whereas in prola it is jagged.
 
Panacea regina is distributed throughout much of the Amazonian region from Colombia to Peru and southern Brazil.
 

Panacea regina ( foreground and far right ) and Panacea prola ( middle ), Peru
 
Habitats
 
Like prola, this species appears to be confined to lowland rainforests at altitudes below about 800m.
 
Lifecycle
 
The lifecycle and larval foodplants are apparently unknown.
 

Panacea regina, male, Manu, Madre de Dios, Peru
 
Adult behaviour

 

The butterflies roost amongst foliage high in the forest canopy. In the early morning they can be seen basking on tree trunks at a height of about 10-15 metres, head downwards, with wings flattened against the bark of the tree.

 

As temperatures begin to climb and light levels increase, they gradually descend to bask at lower points on the trunk, but will fly back to bask much higher up if disturbed. Later, even the weather remains cool and overcast, they descend to settle on riverbanks, often settling on rocks, stones, or logs. Once the butterflies have been on the ground for a few minutes they become very reluctant to move, and will remain basking until dusk, even during light showers or drizzle.

 

A mixed group of 40 Panacea prola and Panacea regina, Rio Madre de Dios, Peru

 

Males gather in mixed aggregations with Panacea prola, basking with wings outstretched. They are constantly alert to intruders, and when one individual detects a threat from an approaching bird or human, it responds by fanning it's wings to display the bright red underside. This acts as a signal to warn it's brethren, who also start fanning their wings, so that the whole group quickly becomes alerted to the danger and is ready to fly up into the trees to escape.

 

 

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