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  • Sara & Johel

Costa Rican Butterflies & Moths: Nature-created Flying Art

Rican Butterflies & Moths: Nature-created Flying Art

Butterflies and moths carry some of the most amazing art painted by Mother Nature on their wings. There are hundreds of photographers, scientists, and tourists visiting Costa Rica every year just to learn about and witness the beauty of those very complex insects.

There are around 16,000 species of butterflies and moths in Costa Rica, out of about 165,000 species so far recorded on the planet. Just as many other insects, butterflies and moths are important elements for our ecosystems, they pollinate some flowers. This purpose is not their most important, however. They also serve as a significant source of food for countless animal species. Butterflies and moths and their caterpillars are preyed on by amphibians, reptiles, birds, and many other creatures out in nature.

The Blue Morpho butterfly, for example, being the most emblematic of the Lepidorters (Butterflies and moths) group, is illustrated in almost every single Costa Rican piece of tourism publicity. This butterfly is also very common in many Latin American countries (Mexico to Colombia). However, being the most emblematic and common doesn't mean that it is the most beautiful or the most fascinating of its species. There are butterflies with amazing forms, wing details and colors that most of us couldn't even imagine.

Just last week, a little (2 cm) butterfly was wandering around our fruit bowl. It was very pretty and different from others we often find around our house. It was mainly brown with other beautiful colors combined on the wings, and it had a pair of antennas like parts sticking out of its inferior wings. What made it more interesting were not the colors, but its behavior. I got closer to it to take a picture, and at that point, it started to move two overlapping antenna-like structures on its wing-tips, almost mimicking the movements of its head. While I could not find that particular butterfly in my guide book, I interpreted that behavior as a defense mechanism.

How could that be a defense mechanism? The inferior wings moved back and forth across each in different directions mimicking the butterfly’s head. When a predator approaches it, the insect moves those antenna-like body parts attracting the predator to the inferior wings. Consequently, should the predator attack, it may only extract some segments or a fraction of the back/inferior wings. The butterfly would still be able to fly and will get one more chance of survival. Months later after that little butterfly appeared, I found a similar one, but yet more interesting. I did not get a chance to take a picture of it, but this one was double the size with half of the wings completely transparent and the other half had multiple bright colors. The luring structures in the inferior wings were larger and even more similar to antennas. Truly a unique species, as I could not find that particular butterfly in our guide book either.

The Go Tico! property in our host community holds an amazing oasis (about 100 x 100 meters tropical wooded area) where many animal species can feel safe and eventually stay there, or just stop when hungry and need to rest. That small oasis is the home to many butterflies and moths species (both diurnal and nocturnal). We periodically do night walks in this little piece of wooded land on which we have the opportunity to see some of the day time butterflies and moths resting, and some of the night time moths interacting with nature. Visit our instagram page to see some of our pics of butterflies and moths and other creatures we find during our walks.

The following are some of the species of butterflies and moths we have found on out property:

-Anartia fatima

-Heliconius erato petiverana

-Heliconius melpomene rosina

-Morpho helenor marinita

-Caligo brasiliensis sulanus

-CIthaerias pireta pireta

-Danaus plexippus

-Eacles ormondei (moth)

-Xylophanes titana (moth)

and many more.

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