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Time to plan a wedding…

This is tMe - Mariposario's guest blogger :)he last blog post I’ll be writing on site here in Montezuma for the next few months. Josh & I P1140729are flying back up to my home state of Montana in a week to take some time off and finish putting together all the details for our September 28 wedding! Course while back in resized josh and Ithe states I’ll also be catching up on all the pictures I’ve taken over the last 6 months – which will give me plenty of material to keep this blog going from afar :) (Although, if I can talk them into it maybe I’ll have a few people at the B&B write a few guest posts for me too while I’m gone)

 

banded hawk moth resizedOur fantastic volunteer work stays will be keeping an eye on the mystery pupa’s that still haven’t emerged from all my mystery caterpillar projects. Hopefully they will even get a few pictures for me to post when they emepupation picture jpgrge. That huge green hawk moth caterpillar I showed you, is one they’ll be watching for me. It did successfully pupate as you can see here as well as this beautiful orange and brown pupa which came from another mystery caterpillar found by one of our neighbors. Unfortunately the yellow chrysalis I was excited about emerging, disappeared… we’re blaming it on a gecko we found hiding inside the pupa house. *sigh* Its hard trying to raise a creature that’s at the very bottom of the food chain! I read recently that butterflies lay on  50-100 eggs in their lifetime of which only 2-5 will make it to egg laying adults. Its a rather sad statistic but a good reminder not to be too crushed when one doesn’t make it and to really rejoice over the miracle it is when a single caterpillar does make it to a butterfly.

morpho chrysalis resizedOh and an update from the last post… that green caterpillar (a morpho) that I said was about to pupate is now a chrysalis!  Although I’m afraid I’m going to miss its moment of emerging too! Still, just because I hate to end without a butterfly picture… here’s  a few of the blue morpho’s that have emerged in our garden lately

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Transforming before your eyes

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :)

 

A lot of the pictures I take here at the Mariposario don’t make it onto the blog but do get posted on our facebook. For those who check both I try not to double up on pictures and info too much but today’s series of facebook posts seemed too good not to share here too. (If you want to see whats going on our facebook page you can find us at Mariposario Montezuma Gardens).

owl cropped and resizedowl pupa cropped & resized

There are so many moments of change and transformation we get to watch first hand here in the butterfly garden. Like the other day walking through the garden at dusk I noticed this  Owl caterpillar hanging upside down getting ready to form. I rushed out the next morning to check and sure enough there was a chrysalis in place of caterpillar that been there the night before.

 

 

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Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

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Mycelius cyaniris (Blue Wave)

Its my habit first thing in the morning to go straight into the butterfly garden and see if anything has emerged. Today nothing had. Still, Aurelie (our workstay volunteer) and I noticed that some of the pupas had changed color and we could see butterfly wings through the now semi-transparent chrysalises. After breakfast Aurelie checked again… and this time there they were! Empty chrysalises with beautiful new butterflies drying off beside them.

 

 

 

      blue wave blog size id2        malachite for blog         P1250911…..

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morhpo caterpillar cropped & resized

After writing this I went and gave a butterfly tour.  One little boy noticed  this green caterpillar under the railing of our foot bridge. A great find! This is a blue morpho caterpillar in its final stage before changing into a chrysalis.  Guess I’ll be running out to check it tomorrow morning too!

some more pretty butterflies

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :)As I said in my last post, living here I have managed to amass over 6,00o pictures in my butterfly picture file alone. Of course, I reached a critical mass somewhere in there and realized I was going to have to break those pictures down into some smaller files. I knew a few of the most well known butterflies like the Blue Morpho & Owl ButterflyAgraulis vanillae 2 so I created folders for them. I also enjoyed flipping through the pictures in our book “Butterflies of Costa Rica and Their Natural History” which helped me quickly ID a bunch of other easy to identify species. The wonderful thing I discovered about doing this was that not only did I start to learn the names of the butterflies but turns out I started to get a lot more excited about the butterflies here. Before, most of the butterflies I saw went into my ambiguous mental file of “another pretty Costa Rican butterfly”.

zebra long wingBut now, having spent time filing all my pictures into families, subfamilies, genuses, etc I have different eyes for them. When I  see our lantana filled with butterflies , I now find myself thinking “That’s a pretty Heliconia, what’s that kind called again?…Oh look its that swallowtail I still don’t have a good picture of yet!… Wait! What’s that one?! I’ve never seen that one before!!!” And so it goes.  So much more more fun then just thinking “oh, there’s some more pretty butterflies”

dryus julia  Phocides polybius

Butterflies ID-ed

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :)Confession -  I  don’t consider myself a science person.  I am wildly enamored with the wildlife here and I’m known at the bed & breakfast for getting really excited about every new little creature we find.  But I don’t read science journals. I’m just starting to occasionally read other butterfly blogs and I took the bare minimum amount of science classes in college to graduate. (Even then, I skipped the maximum amount of days allowed before my grade would start to be docked for absences)
heliconius smenius telchinia 1    Heliconius Hacale

Chlosyne Hippodrome
I must also admit to myself though, that loving wildlife and loving photography is slowly making me more sciencey. Take today for example… I just spent the entire afternoon flipping through butterfly books, ID-ing species and then double verifying them online. Where did that come from?!  Answer: Me loving taking pictures and me living at a butterfly garden has equated to exactly 6,238 butterfly pictures. glassy winged

I must also admit to myself though, that loving wildlife and loving photography is slowly making me more sciencey. Take today for example… I just spent the entire afternoon flipping through butterfly books, ID-ing species and then double verifying them online. Where did that come from?!  Answer: Me loving taking pictures and me living at a butterfly garden. Those two things have equated to exactly 6,238 butterfly pictures.

Astraptes fulgerator - Two Barred FlasherAs a result, I’ve been forced to do a little more systematic filing then just tossing everything in the butterfly picture folder! And turns out those guys called entomologists have a really good system of organizing butterfly pictures…

 

 

 

Exciting caterpillars of every color, stripe, shape and size!

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :)
Lots happening in the caterpillar lab the last couple weeks!

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P1220195P1220220Found
a bunch of these beautiful black & white caterpillars on a
Cecropia tree right off of our balcony. We rescued all of them (as they
would have almost surely become wren food otherwise) and have had fun
watching them grow up! I’ve gotten to
watch half a dozen now hang themselves upside down from a leaf or
branch only to find them transformed the next day into what looks like a
little piece of wood. None have emerged yet but we’re guessing that it
will be what is locally known as a Cecropia butterfly, clearly
referencing the host plant we found these guys on. I’m feeling good
about my chances of getting at least a couple of them photographed when
they emerged, with having so many of them!

P1200966 editThen
there’s this crazy colored one! I discovered a vine back behind our
property that grows way up to (or maybe down from) the trees that is the
host plant for this new favorite mystery caterpillar of mine. I’ve
found four of them but only am only attempting to raise 2. Josh told me
the anal horn probably indicates that its a moth. This seems especially
likely since I’ve had one of the two pupate now and it pupated on the
floor of the box instead of attaching onto something and hanging.
Actually right before it pupated, it looked dead! As you can see in the
picture it had faded in color, shrunk a bit and seemed to have oozed
some sort of liquid. But later that evening, sure enough there was a
little brown pupa where that dead looking caterpillar had been. Can’t
wait to see what it will turn into!
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P1220165P1220169Finally
there’s this giant! Thanks to some help from our facebook community we
feel pretty certain that its going to be a Banded Hawk Moth. The thing I
didn’t know before is that Hawk, or Sphynx moths as they’re also called
pupate bellow ground! To simulate this environment it was suggested
that we place the caterpillar inside of a used toilet paper roll, cover
it with leaves and then place it somewhere dark. So it’s now living in a
box under my bed! Unfortunately I read somewhere that it may
take 5 weeks for it to emerge and by then I’ll be back in the states!
Josh and I are returning to Montana (my home state) mid-August til early
November to get married and spend some time there before returning for
the busy season. I’ll have to see about having someone adopt my hawk
moth pupa before I leave – but I don’t know if I’ll end up with any
pictures of it when it emerges! Either way, getting to see it as a
caterpillar was unforgettable.

P1200888Oh!
But I almost did forget this guy! Our neighbor thought it was eating a
heart shaped vine on his fence although we never got to see it eat
because turns out it was ready to pupate. Looking back at some pictures
of mine I realized I have seen this type of caterpillar once before
eating papaya leaves.  But either way its done eating now and is looking
particularly pretty in its shiny yellow chrysalis.
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Catching up after the World Cup!

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :)Ok, that’s it. I need to do more frequent blog posts. Initially my goal was to post one a week. The problem is by the time the week is over I’m overwhelmed by all the possible things I could write about and I put off writing anything!  So this week I’m gonna try for a post every other day. We’ll see if that helps. But first to catch up on the last week and a half.

 

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  • The caterpillar lab is finished and we’re enjoying putting it to use! In fact I got to have an extra lab assistant this week in the form of 7 year old Summer, my soon to be niece.  The schools here are on their 2 week winter break, so she’s spent the last couple days of it hanging out here & helping me in the butterfly garden

 

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  • P1200929P1200964Our organic garden produced its first fruit -from seed to breakfast table! Although we still have a lot to learn about tropical gardening we’re feeling very encouraged with our first crop of honeydew melons!

 

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  • THE WORLD CUP! Do I really need to say more? Well just in case you P1200332missed it, Costa Rica had a 1 in 4,000 odds of winning the world cup but made it all the way to the quarter finals where even in that game they shut out the heavy-weight Netherland’s team in regular time and pushed it to a penalty kick round. It was a historic moment for Costa Rica and an incredibly special time to be here.

 

swallowtail

  • P1210206As for my mystery caterpillars…in an incredibly anti-climatic twist, two of the chrysalises I’ve been waiting on emerged but eluded my camera! :( One was a beautiful large yellow swallowtail,  similar if not exactly the same to the one pictured here (Josh tells me there are a few different species that P1210205 look very similar in the area) Meanwhile the other one escaped on me so entirely that I’m not sure even what it turned out to be (Either, one of our volunteers accidentally let it out of the pupa house or I unknowingly released it with a bunch of others who emerged the same day) Ironically, the chrysalis didn’t look any different after it emerged, so even though I was checking it daily I didn’t notice that it was empty until possibly weeks later. *shaking head* Oh well, at least it emerged.

 

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  • On the more encouraging side of things, I have gotten to see 2 more Adelpha caterpillars pupate and emerge in the last week. Actually I had 3 other mystery caterpillars form & emerge too (1 moth and 2 butterflies) and 3 other mystery pupas formed. This is why I have to post more often, its just too much to try and fit into one blog! But this week I’ll do better I promise. I’ll introduce you to the new caterpillars I am currently raising and maybe catch you up on a few of the others that have recently formed or emerged.

Our Garden Grows!!

The journey of working with an organic vegetable garden surrounded by jungle has been interesting, to say the least, but hey!:

Our new Lab, with a side of White Face West Side Story

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :)Oh wow has it been a full couple weeks! Here’s a few of the things happening these days!

               lab lab project

The butterfly lab is getting overhauled! Walls are getting knocked down, cement’s getting mixed on the floor, cinder blocks laid… while I stand in the middle of it all changing out grass for the morpho’s and checking in on mystery caterpillars. It’s a funny sight but I’m excited for the change. We’re taking it from a fully enclosed structure (translated – no breeze, stiflingly humid and dimly lit) to an airier brighter space by converting 2 of the walls to half cement half shade cloth.

Costa Rica capuchin monkeys MontezumaMONKEYS, MONKEYS, MONKEYS! The mango trees across the street are drawing in a couple different groups of white face monkeys this week…. and they aren’t exactly willing to share or play nice together. I keep waiting for a man with a British accent to start narrating as I watch them charging at each other, hissing and posturing, guarding the mother with the baby on her back….. you kcropped and resizednow the usual kind of thing you expect to see on Animal Planet.  As soon as I (and when I say I, I mean Josh) get my video editing software fixed I will post some videos as well as more pics.

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My two mystery chrysalises I posted last week STILL haven’t emerged. Although another caterpillar pupated and has joined them. I expect all  three of them to emerge as some type of swallowtail… IF they ever emerge! :(

 

resizedMeanwhile, a chrysalis I didn’t mention in my posts has emerged! I had hardly given it any attention because when I’d found the caterpillar Josh told me it was probably a zebra longwing.  I kept it to observe & photograph but didn’t have the same level of excitement and anticipation I get when I don’t have any idea what they are. Turns out I should have been more excited!  Not only did it give me much more instant gratification – emerging from its chrysalis within a week of having formed – but it’s not a zebra longwing!  It is a Heliconius erato also known as the red postman, which we raised on our Bat-winged passionflower vine Passiflora coriacea.

erato caterpillar blog size & edit  P1160696 P1180018 P1180023                   P1170317 cropped and resized

Return of the ants

Me - Mariposario's guest blogger :).

 The leaf cutter ants re-invaded.

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Turns out one foot of the table hadn’t been put into a wide enough oil container, allowing these persistent pillagers to cross the chasm, scale the table, and plunder again. So with almost perfectly dejavu detail we re-enacted the last night’s drama (with the one notable exception that this time I remembered to take P1170168pictures of the ants!) The caterpillar seemed none the worse for the last two nights escapades when I checked on it this morning though.  On the contrary,  it seemed content as usual to move as little as possible on the branches provided while showing off its impressive new weight gain (caterpillars really do literally grow in size overnight). I had breakfast, reassured of it’s well being… only to come back an hour later and find it disappeared! Completely. I still can’t believe it. All that work and it escaped on me just as as it was about to form its chrysalis (I’m quite sure that’s why it escaped… apparently all the long sturdy branches I had made available to it were not good enough and it decided to take matters into its own…feet) It will be fine, it apparently didn’t need a food source anymore and is more than capable of finding a good place to pupate… but still all that fighting with the ants and no chrysalis to show for it?! *sigh* I guess I have to figure out a better table AND a better caterpillar box next time.

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At least I have these two mystery caterpillar chrysalises to look forward to emerging… Any guesses what they’ll become?

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