Insect Insight: Grecian Shoemaker

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The Grecian Shoemaker
Catonephele Numilia

Each month, Erin and I are going to give you an upclose look at one of the bugs we have on display – an Insect Insight.

For the first, I thought I would share one of my absolute favorite butterflies with you.  I chose this one because it coincides with the recent blog “Buggin’ around in Costa Rica.”  The butterfly farm that we visited, El Bosque Nuevo, raises these butterflies.   

Catonephele numilia is native to Central and South America.  The common name is the Grecian Shoemaker or Blue-frosted Catone.  Adult males and females of this species exhibit sexual dimorphism by looking totally different.  Males are black with six orange dots on the dorsal surface of the wings whereas females are black with a light yellow band across the center of the fore wings

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The Grecian Shoemaker exhibits
sexual dimorphism

Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1
Feisty caterpillar

When the wings are closed, both male and females look alike (as you can see in the first photo) and can often be seen feeding on rotten fruit.  In their natural habitat of wet lowland forests, the males tend to stay higher in the canopy while the female searches for host plants and nectar sources closer to the ground. 

The caterpillars of this species are rather aggressive when encounters occur with others of their kind.  A disturbed caterpillar will violently swing its spiky head back and forth to try to keep its enemies at bay. 

I had read about this crazy behavior and was so excited to actually see it at the butterfly farm.  Next time you are visiting the Cockrell Butterfly Center, keep an eye out for this butterfly taking in rays on a plant or sipping juice from fruit! And be sure to check back next month for more info about one of our six-legged friends!

Buggin Around in Costa Rica

Hey bug fans! In mid-March, Laurie and I had the opportunity of a lifetime! We were able to travel to Costa Rica and visit a butterfly farm that is one of our largest and best suppliers of tropical butterflies. I know we’ve kept you in suspense for long enough, so without further ado, here’s how it all went down…

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 Laurie and I at the Liberia Airport

Laurie and I arrived in Liberia right before noon on March 13, 2008.  We descended the stairs from our plane and were immersed in the 90 degree weather. We were both excited, ready for an adventure, and a little sweaty. After about an hour waiting for the rest of the group, and a few refreshments, we were on our way to El Bosque Nuevo. El Bosque Nuevo is a butterfly farm nestled in the heart of a tiny town called Santa Ceciliana in the Guanacaste province of Northwest Costa Rica. Every other week we receive a beautifully packed shipment of healthy butterfly pupae from them.  This is really a wonderful project because 100 percent of the proceeds go back to preserving the rainforest! You can find out more about El Bosque Nuevo and their preservation efforts by clicking here.  It was definitely an interesting ride to the farm, and as Laurie and I would soon find out, paved roads in this part of Costa Rica were way over-rated! We arrived at the farm and met our conference mates. These were all very fascinating people who work at butterfly houses all over the country. Being around them really makes people like Laurie and me feel a lot less weird! My first thought upon arrival (and after counting all of the attendees) was, only one bathroom?? Luckily, there were actually two bathrooms. We were fed a wonderful meal, socialized for a bit, then it was off to bed. Open air rooms, bunkbeds with mosquito nets, and a chorus of snores that drowned out the nocturnal songs of the forest.The next day we were up bright and early for a breakfast of Gallo Pinto, a traditional Costa Rican meal consisting of rice and beans from the previous day, and eggs.

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 Laurie and I ready
for our first hike

After breakfast and converstaions, we started on our first hike. The forest was dry and insect life was a little more scarce then usual, but we really hoped to see some cool wildlife. We traveled deep into the forest, spotting a few interesting things here and there, when someone in the group thought they heard a noise. We followed the noise as it got louder and louder, it was the roar of a dominant male holwer monkey that sent chills down our spines. We thought it could have been miles away, but someone happened to look way up above us, right into the faces of the small troop of Howler Monkeys. With that awesome sight came the end of the trail and we headed back only to stumble upon our first amazing insect! It was a Helicopter Damselfly. A HUGE damselfly with neon-yellow wing tips that shimmered as it glided though the vegetaion around us! What a great first hike.

Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1
Howler Monkeys

The first day really set the tone for our visit at El Bosque Nuevo. We were shown the extent of their reforestation efforts so far, as well as the day to day workings of the farm. We continued to see wonderful things, including Arenal, an active volcano, and even a day at the beach with a beautiful sunset followed by stars you could actually see. We also had continued luck with spotting some great wildlife. Since it was the dry season, the insects were not quite as abundant, but we did manage to find a cute little metallic grasshopper, a really scary bullet ant, and a huge weevil which had been attracted to one of the butterfly traps. Finally, to my delight, we saw a large, unusual katydid (my favorite) on the last night of the trip, yay!

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 Bullet ant – Look at that monster!

After 4 incredible days at El Bosque Nuevo, we said goodbye to our new friends and headed off to our next destination, Cano Negro. Here, we saw a different kind of habitat. There was a lagoon complete with cayman and a host of different bird species, and a secondary rainforest where we saw more howler monkeys. That night, we relaxed in a room with a hot shower, air conditioning, and soft beds!  The next day we were on the road again, heading for Chichagua, which I would recommend to anyone traveling to Costa Rica. The property was in the middle of a breathtakingly beautiful rainforest packed full of wildlife! This habitat was home to more insects and we even saw one poison dart frog! In the morning, we shared our breakfast with some collared aracaris (beautiful toucanettes) and made our way back to Liberia to catch our plane home. This was definitely the trip of a lifetime! Laurie and I were just tickled to see blue morphos flying by us, in their native habitat, along with many other residents of the Butterfly Center. It was a beautiful experience for us. I could go on forever but I’ll leave you at that. We have so many more pictures and if you’d like to see more, just click here! Well, I hope we’ve painted a lovely picture for you all. I hope you’ll come back and see what’s happening in our buggy world!

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Our Bungalow in Cichagua