Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Blue Morpho Butterfly....A Natural Beauty in Costa Rica!

Hard to believe, but there are almost 24,000 species of butterflies the World. One of the prettiest and most impressive species are the Blue Morpho butterflies. Not only are these beautiful butterflies common to Costa Rica, but they are one of the most sought after species by collectors and nature lovers alike who seek to experience them in their natural habitat, as they mesmerize you with their incredible bright blue metallic coloring that serves as an incredible contrast to the lush green rainforests of our Central America paradise.

If you'd like to learn more about these delicate rainforest treasures, read on......

Common Name: Blue Morpho Butterfly

Type: Insect

Family: Nymphalidae

Range: Common to the tropical rainforests of Central America and South America. Blue Morphos are found primarily in forests
in Central and South America, with high concentrations in both Mexico and Costa Rica. These incredible insects are easily spotted by their large beautiful bright blue wings that reflect light as they fly by in their distinctly erratic pattern.

Size: Blue Morphos average approximately 5 – 6 inches wide, though some species will be smaller.

Diet: The blue morpho’s diet changes as it passes through each stage of life. As a caterpillar, the Blue Morpho chews leaves.
When it "morphs" to become a butterfly, it begins to drink its food instead, using a long, protruding mouthpart called a proboscis as a literal drinking straw. They use this to sip the juice of rotting fruit, the fluids of decomposing animals, tree sap, fungi and wet mud. Blue Morphos can actually taste fruit with sensors located on their legs, and they “taste-smell” the air with their sensitive antennae, which function as a combined tongue and nose on the go.

Average life span: The life span of the Blue Morpho butterfly is short. They generally live only 115 days, with most of their time focused on feeding and reproduction.

Habitat: Blue Morphos can mostly be found in the tropical forests of Latin America spanning from Mexico to Colombia, with a
large population found in Costa Rica. Adult morphos spend the majority of their time on the forest floor or the lower shrubs and trees under the jungle canopy with their wings folded for protection from predators. However, at the time of searching for mates, the blue morphos can fly through all layers of the forest attracting attention with their incredible iridescent blue wings.

Breeding/Reproduction: Although butterflies are some of God's most beautiful creatures, they mostly just reproduce and sadly die immediately after laying their eggs. The male butterflies release chemicals called pheromones in their wings to attract as many females as possible in their pursuit for successful reproduction. The female’s eggs are fertilized, at which time they lay them in a safe place and fly off leaving them on their own for hatching. The surviving eggs will hatch after only nine days.

Blue Morpho Butterfly: Belonging to the family of Nymphalidaes, these beauties acquired their name "Morpho" which means “changed” because of its ability to appear like they are changing colors when in flight. This is largely due to the
butterfly’s prominent wings which can span from five to eight inches. The changing color effect is often a result of the ventral or the front of the wing which is dull brown and covered with a series of different sized eyespots. These eyespots serve to protect the butterflies from predators such as birds and insects, as when they close their wings are show these eyespots, predators are more inclined to peck or attack the "eye" as opposed to the
butterfly body. When the morpho opens its wings, the dorsal or the back part of this insect is bright blue with the edges of the wings being black or a darker shade. This bright blue coloring is actually the result of the microscopic scales which reflect light, so when the blue morpho flaps its wings upon flying the bright blue back is in contrast to the front or underwings dull brown. This is what makes them look like they are appearing and disappearing as they fly erratically through the air. The male blue morpho has broader wings then the females and it appears to generally be brighter in color, while the female of this species has duller blue wings with sporadic white spots along the brown edging.

Life Cycle: The Blue Morpho’s life cycle starts when the eggs are hatched into larvae. The larvae becomes a recognizable
caterpillar with distinct brownish red with green patches along the back. These caterpillar have prickly hair that can irritate predators when threatened or attacked. These caterpillars mostly eat on leaves, especially favoring plants from the pea family. The caterpillar then forms a jade colored green chrysalis to start metamorphosis. A short time later an adult blue morpho butterfly emerges. At this stage since they still do not
have the ability to chew, so they drink for nourishment
instead. As mentioned above, at this stage they still use their proboscis to sip fluids of rotten fruits, tree saps, certain fungus' and even wet mud. They also eventually use sensors on their legs to taste fruits, while their antennae act like a combo tongue and nose to “taste-smell” the air while in search of food.

While spending time in Costa Rica, please remember that the Blue Morphos only have a life span of 115 days. Even with these few months to live, they also are constantly threatened by their natural predators (more birds than anything), as well as the constant threat they face due to habitat destruction by loggers, farmers and urban development. Lastly, sadly humans continue to be a threat due to their fascination to want to capture and display these beautiful insects to show off the bright and beautiful colors these beautiful butterflies display.

When staying at your Costa Rica Hotel, please don't support this destructive market by buying or encouraging the sale or displays of the Blue Morpho, their continued existence depends on your good conscience! Happy Travels to all, I hope you get to see a Blue Morpho during your vacation! Pura Vida!

Fun Facts:
• When the blue morpho flies, the contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the morpho is appearing and disappearing.
• The "blue butterfly" has spiritual meaning for many native people of the rainforest, who see it either as a wish-granter or the complete opposite....a malicious spirit.
• Blue morphos, like all butterflies, taste with sensors on their legs and taste-smell the air with their antennae to help them detect food while in flight.
• Their beauty is brief: the entire blue morpho life cycle lasts only 115 days, so enjoy while you can.
• If disturbed, Blue Morpho caterpillars will secrete a fluid that smells similar to rancid butter.
• The tufts of hair found on the caterpillars will irritate human skin.


Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources: by shamsul

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Squirrel Monkey or Mono Titi (in Spanish)… We´re too damn cute, don´t let us dissappear!

Literally everyday I have the pleasure of being visited by one of the cutest little jungle creatures you will ever encounter……the friendly Titi or Squirrel Monkeys of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The particular species that swings through our trees, climbs on our roofs, and even occasionally gets in our houses are found ONLY in the Manuel Antonio area. Our blessing, is this little monkeys curse though, as with continued development in the surrounding areas of Manuel Antonio and Quepos, these beautiful little animals have slowly been completely cutoff from their natural wildlife corredor, meaning the Titis of Manuel Antonio no longer have anywhere else to go! This not only limits their ability to naturally flourish, but results in an elevated level of inbreeding, more sickness, and a weakening of the species over time, putting in danger this species´ long term existence.

Easily recognized by their soft light brown body furr, adorable little white with black facial "bigotes", long brown with bushy black tipped tails, and friendly incesant chatter, their tiny size and endearing faces draw oohs and ahhs from all that encounter them, making them clearly one of the main attractions in and around Manuel Antonio National Park, located on the Central Pacific Coast of tropical Costa Rica.

In search of a way to minimize the negative impact that this situation has caused, several local community organizations have emerged to help in the protection of this special little monkey. One of the most prominent in our area is Some of their many objectives, has been the creation of ¨monkey bridges¨ throughout the area. These thick ropes are strategically placed where the monkeys naturally arrive to cross roads, highways or locations that have a large amount of electrical, phone, or other types of cables, or where the vegetation is not sufficient for monkeys to safely traverse. This helps the monkeys avoid electrocution, or from the creatures having to come down from the trees to continue their journey, a move that would make them terribly susceptible to predators, as well as other modern environmental hazards. This organization has also published an excellent list of 10 reasons why you should NOT feed the monkeys, which most hotels, restaurants and other businesses post in their establishments to help educate the community and the visiting tourists about the negative impact feeding the monkeys has. This not for profit organization has also been funding a wildlife rescue center for local injured monkeys and other animals, so you can now choose to visit and donate to their badly needed facility when in the Manuel Antonio area.

Another excellent organization developed specifically for the protection of the Titi Monkey is The Titi Conservation Alliance was started in 2001 by a group of business owners within the tourist industry based around Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. Recognizing the need for conservation of their natural environment to maintain prosperity for their businesses, this group of entrepreneurs began the Alliance with the mission to promote sustainable development and to conserve the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Region. Today, the Alliance is composed of member businesses and individuals dedicated to saving the endangered titi monkey, and its habitat. Through dues paid by member businesses, donations from concerned tourists wanting to help protect the beautiful areas they enjoy visiting, and the efforts of our staff and volunteers, the Titi Conservation Alliance is working to protect Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region through Sustainable Development, Habitat Reforestation, and Environmental Education.

For those of you coming to Costa Rica, or if you have been trying to decide where to go on your next vacation, consider the Manuel Antonio area of this beautiful country, where not only will you have the opportunity to see these endangered little Squirrel Monkeys, but where many businesses will donate a portion of what you spend in our area directly for the Squirrel Monkey´s protection, so future generations will be able to enjoy the ¨Mono Titi¨ too!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.