Considering that Costa Rica is a rather small country, it is a staggering fact that it is the home of 1500 different species of butterfly, which represent 90% of all Central American species and 18% of the earth’s total population. To see the kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and sizes of these delicate, gentle insects as they flit about among the flowers and plants of their habitat is quite a sight to behold.
After our tram ride through the rainforest canopy we got the chance to walk through a literal butterfly garden. Though at first it was difficult to know where to look, as the butterflies swooshed about, the human “planted” fruit stations gave us a good starting point:
That wasn’t much a challenge for me, so I followed those in flight to get more “unposed” photos:
These are the most popularly recognized Costa Rica butterfly – the Blue Morpho. But in this view where is the blue? The last photo give you a hint. The secret is revealed when the Morpho unfurls It’s wings:
But there is even a bigger secret – the Blue Morpho wings aren’t actually blue. The color is due to reflective scales on the wings.. As light hits them hues of brilliant blue color are flashed.
The underside of the wings are dull brown and have many “eyespots” that serves as confusing camouflage to protect the butterfly from predators when the Morpho is sitting with its wings closed.. When they fly, the flashing bright blue contrasts with the brown color, making it look to its predators as though the morpho is appearing and disappearing.
Here is a lovely moment of a Morpho just recently emerged from its cocoon:
While I wasn’t able to photograph all 1500 Costa Rican species, I did get about two dozen, although, in full disclosure some were seen at the Butterfly Conservatories in NYC and Boston: Here are some of my favorites:
Starry Night Cracker butterfly – taken at the NYC Museum of Natural History Butterfly Conservatory:
There was a mutual connection between this gorgeous butterfly and me – or perhaps it was just the purple sweater that drew the butterfly. Its name comes from its similarity to Van Gogh’s famous painting in addition to the bacon sizzling-like sound the male makes when it attempts to attract females. How can you not love it?
The next butterfly is high ranking- it is called the admiral:
This see through beauty is a glass wing
Zebra long wing:
This butterfly is the Dryas Iulia but it is often called the Julia Butterfly. It’s large wings are yellow on the underside and when unfurled show a brilliant orange. First photo is from the Boston Butterfly Conservatory:
Another fun fact about this butterfly is that it will irritate the eyes of a caiman so that the latter produces tears which the butterfly then sips up, getting its desired gulp of salt.
Lastly, this friendly green spotted swallowtail stopped on my fingertip for a final photo-op in the butterfly garden of the Atlantic Forest of Tortuguero.
It was great fun visiting and communing with these beautiful creatures. There are other Costa Rican wildlife, however, that one should NOT TOUCH or frankly be anywhere near them – which I will show you in a later post.