Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery
Banded King Shoemaker Butterfly
The banded king shoemaker butterfly, scientifically known as Prepona demophon, ranges from Mexico to South America and thrives in the warm shelter of the rainforests. Unfortunately, much of its habitat is being destroyed. As part of an effort to promote environmental awareness and to protect species native to the Amazon, the banded king shoemaker butterfly is often featured on ecotourism brochures and advertisements.
Banded king shoemaker butterflies can be difficult to identify. The upper sides of their wings resemble black velvet paintings, iridescent metallic green-blue or blue-purple patterns on a rich black background. Several closely related butterfly species exhibit nearly identical patterns and, when viewed from above, they can easily be confused with the banded king shoemaker. The intricate silver-brown, leaf-like under wing patterns, which serve as camouflage, are the best way to distinguish the species.
In flight, banded king shoemakers may appear more similar to birds in a flock, than butterflies. Though they do not chirp, some observers report hearing a cracking sound when groups of the banded king shoemakers fly by. Using strong thoracic muscles to power their wings, these lepidopterans are extremely swift. Their speed helps them protect their territory, enabling them to quickly chase off any competitors they consider too close.
Shrinkage of the tropical rainforests and over collection of the species has caused problems for the banded king shoemaker butterfly. Once rare in butterfly collections, commercial hunters soon discovered the relative ease of trapping these fast flying forest denizens by luring them with fermented fruits and feces. As their favored habitat slowly continues to disappear, the banded king shoemaker must find other places to live. Ornamental tree plantings along the streets of Brazil and avocado plantations are some of the most likely choices.
Cynthia D. Kelly, Shannon H. Neaves, Laurence D. Zuckerman, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.
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