The Lepidoptera–butterflies and moths–of the Amazon are some of the most famous insects of the region, flaunting beautiful vivid colors unlike insects anywhere else in the world. The Amazon basin, particularly Peru, harbors the highest levels of butterfly diversity on the planet.
Nearly 7000 species of butterflies have been identified in the Neotropics; one-half of these are known to be located in Peru (1).
Manu National Park in Peru is an area in which over 1307 butterfly species have been identified; this is twice the number of butterflies found in the entire United States. Of these species, one of the most famous is the Blue Morpho butterfly-Morpho rhetenor-which is so iridescent that it can be viewed up to one-half mile away due to the microstructures within its wings (2).
But butterflies are not the only amazing insects found in the Amazon. Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, and bees) make up the majority of insects in the Amazon. E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s most famous biologists, once recorded 26 genera and 43 species of ants on a single tree in the Tambopata Natural Reserve in Southeastern Peru (3). The significance of these numbers is that they represent more ant diversity than can be found throughout the entire United Kingdom. Wilson estimated that ants constituted nearly one-third of all insect biomass in the rainforest where he was studying and one-quarter of the biomass of all animals.
1.) Lamas G (1997) Comparing the butterfly faunas of Pakitza and Tambopata, Madre de Dios, Peru, or why is Peru such a megadiverse country? In: H. ULRICH (ed.), Tropical Biodiversity and Systematics. Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum Alexander Koenig, Bonn, pp. 165-168
2.)Vukusic P, Sambles JR (2003) Photonic structures in biology. Nature, 424, 852-855.
3.) Wilson EO (1987) The arboreal ant fauna of Peruvian Amazon forests: A first assessment. Biotropica, 19 (3), 245-251.