A Colombian butterfly

Mesosemia cordillerensis (C) Juan Guillermo Jaramillo

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Scientists reveal almost 200 unique butterflies that live only in Colombia and could be at risk of being lost forever

A team of scientists led by Dr Blanca Huertas of the Natural History Museum in London has published a free identification guide for the unique butterflies of Colombia. 

Almost 200 unique species of butterflies live only in Colombia, accounting for 20% of all butterfly species, and they might be at risk. This means that one in five of the world’s known butterfly species could be protected in Colombia’s territory. The first ever list and identification guide for the endemic species has been just published after almost two centuries of butterfly studies in the country. The bilingual book (English and Spanish) can be downloaded for free from the Natural History Museum website

The women-led team of authors comprises Dr Blanca Huertas, a scientist at the Natural History Museum, Yenny Correa Carmona biologist from Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia and Rutherford grant recipient and Jean Francois Le Crom, butterfly expert. The project follows an international collaboration between the Colombian Government’s board of Tourism, ProColombia, and the Natural History Museum in London, UK.  

Many species will be seen for the first time in the book with 500 full colour pictures and facts about some of the rarest, precious, and most threatened butterflies in the country. To name a few, the book features a yellow butterfly species that was in solitude for almost one hundred years before its female mate was found, a species that has only been collected once in almost 50 years and even a species named after Satan. 

Colombia is one of the most diverse countries in the world and the authors of the book hope to encourage more people to protect Colombia’s vast butterfly fauna, including international visitors. With improved security following the country’s peace accord and the growth in nature appreciation globally, ecotourism experiences are at the top of many travellers’ priority lists. However, climate change and land conversion are threatening many forests in the mountains of Colombia. 

Dr Blanca Huertas, Senior Curator of Lepidoptera at the Natural History Museum, says: ‘Now knowing which butterfly species have special and limited habitats in Colombia, we hope that the general public engage with their conservation, that scientists can prioritise further studies and governments can protect them. We are letting the world know about the unique treasures of Colombia’.

Jose R. Puyana, ProColombia’s regional director for Europe said: ‘From the home to a fifth of the world’s entire butterfly population, ProColombia is delighted to support the important work that scientists are doing to identify and celebrate Colombia’s unique butterflies. Through partnering with the Natural History Museum, we continue to showcase our precious wildlife and shine a light on Colombia as perhaps the most biodiverse country in the world.’

Key facts:  

  • The book reveals photos and unknown facts concerning the almost 200 butterflies that live only in Colombia.  If lost, they will be lost forever.  
  • A yellow butterfly featured in the book depicts the famous Nobel book writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude book.  
  • Colombia has almost as many butterflies as Africa (4,000 species) and almost six times than the entire European continent (500 species). 
  • Significant improvements in the security of Colombia have led to a new phenomenon of ecotourism, meaning butterflies have potential for increased protection.  
  • The Paramos area of the Colombian mountains is the most threatened area and is a vital habitat to the endemic butterfly species.  

Media contact 

For more information, access to images or to arrange an interview with Blanca Huertas, please contact press@nhm.ac.uk. 


Huertas B., Le Crom, J.F. & Correa-Carmona Y. 2022. Endemic Butterflies of Colombia: An identification guide for the country’s unique species / Mariposas endémicas de Colombia: guía para la identificación de las especies únicas del país. Natural History Museum London & ProColombia. Editorial Puntoaparte, Bogotá Colombia. 240 pp. 

Information about the authors 

Blanca Huertas PhD (Bogotá, Colombia), Senior Curator of Lepidoptera at the Natural History Museum 

Since an early age, Blanca has been fascinated by insects. She has a degree from National Pedagogical University and postgraduate from Universidad Distrital, Bogotá, an MSc from Imperial College London and PhD from University College London UCL. For 17 years, she has been the Senior Curator responsible for the butterfly collections at the Natural History Museum in London. Her research with c. 90 publications including books, fieldwork and the discovery of new species, has contributed to the conservation in the tropics. Blanca is a mother and advocate of equality and inclusion in STEM. Blanca is the Senior Curator of Butterflies at the Natural History Museum, and is responsible for the direct care, development and access of the Butterfly Collections. 

Jean François Le Crom (Francia)

An amateur entomologist for more than forty years, specialising in the taxonomy of Colombian butterflies. He is the lead author of the Butterflies of Colombia book series, of which two volumes have been published: Papilionidade (2002) and Pieridae (2004), with more to come. He is co-author of the series Theclinae de Colombia and several other scientific publications. Jean is the president and founder of ACOLEP: Colombian Association for Lepidopterology. He is an associate researcher at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Colombia and scientific advisor to Mariposas del Putumayo project. He is member of several international professional associations such as SCIENCES NAT, SHILAP and Tropical Lepidoptera. 

Yenny Correa-Carmona MSc (Medellín, Colombia)

Biologist from University of Antioquia, with a masters in Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution (Écosystèmes) from the University of Montpellier (France), and member of the Entomology Group of the University of Antioquia (GEUA). Yenny has focused her academic career on the study of diurnal butterflies and moths, in particular, of the Sphingidae family. Her academic interests include knowledge and conservation of biodiversity, mainly in Colombia and the tropics. Lover of music, cinema and dance, Yenny supports diversity and respect and recognition to women in science and society. 

About the Natural History Museum 

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited indoor attraction in the UK last year. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens accessed by researchers from all over the world both in person and via over 30 billion digital data downloads to date. The Museum’s 350 scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency from biodiversity loss through to the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome millions of visitors through our doors each year, our website has had 17 million visits in the last year and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 20 million people in the last 10 years.