“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” – Anonymous

Ever wondered were the word “butterfly” comes from? No one knows for sure, but here are a few theories:

  1. Butterflies were first named after the common English yellow brimstone butterfly, and the name eventually extended to encompass all variations.
  2. In old German folk tales, witches transformed into butterflies to steal milk and butter.
  3. Butterfly may just be a mixing up of “flutter-by,” which would make more sense.

In any case, over 16,000 species of butterflies live in the tiny little country of Costa Rica (according to the butterfly experts at La Paz Waterfall Gardens). That number represents about 18% of the species on the entire planet, and an impressive 90% of the species in Central America.

Here is a list of Costa Rica’s top five butterflies.

Heliconius Erato

Pictured in the photo above, these guys are also called “crimson-patched longwings.” The orange-black-red-white color combo is supposed to make them appear poisonous so they scare off predators. They are almost indistinguishable from another species of butterfly called “The Postman,” aptly named since each day they follow the exact same pollination route from flower to flower.

Malachite Siproeta stelenes

Malachite Siproeta stelenes

There aren’t many creatures in the animal kingdom tinted this shade of neon green. These tropical butterflies look like they are perpetually ready for Halloween, as do their spiky red and black caterpillars. They are named after the gorgeous green malachite stone, and their favorite food in Costa Rica is rotting mango.

Blue Morpho

No list of Costa Rica butterflies is complete without the blue morpho. The green frog with the red eyes may be Costa Rica’s number one unofficial mascot, but this gorgeous butterfly comes in as a close second. These blue beauties aren’t actually pigmented blue – the color we see is actually a trick of the light reflected by microscopic scales. This structural color creates iridescence, a gorgeous optical effect that varies depending on the viewpoint angle.

Owl Butterfly

Owl Butterfly

This enormous insect may not be as colorful as some of its flashier cousins, but it certainly is an impressive feat of nature. Each owl butterfly is completely unique, like a snowflake. Perched on a branch with wings closed, both wings looks precisely like the eye of an owl – complete with a fake shiny gleam of reflected light. They even sit close to one another on branches to complete the disguise and give the “bird” two eyes. The topside of their wings are creamy blue, somewhat similar to the blue morpho but dialed down.

Hecale Longwing

Hecale Longwing

Also known as the tiger longwing, this species of butterfly has a particularly long lifespan of up to 9 months. This is thanks to the fact that it can absorb protein (most butterflies cannot, and only live for about 10 days). Hecale longwings are poisonous, which is the reason why other butterflies often mimic its pattern. The chrysalis belonging to this species is especially well-camouflaged, as it looks remarkably like a dried up leaf. Opportunistic males are known to wait outside of a female’s chrysalis and try to mate before the female has fully emerged so she doesn’t have a chance to fly away.

By: Genna Marie

Photo Credits:Genna Marie of Tamarindo Family Photos