The Blue’s: Big, Blue, Beautiful Butterflies

It has been awhile since I have posted here. My laptop got the screen cracked while traveling through Panama. I’m now back in Miami after a few months of being out of the country, so I’ll try to put up a number of posts covering what I have been doing the last few weeks. So continuing with Panama…

In Panama, I was fortunate to spend some time hunting insects with my friend Ummat. He is a first rate entomologist working on his graduate degree and a real hoot to work with. His current project involves finding and painting small numbers on hundreds of individual insects and then recapturing them later.

One day hiking up a stream (the most easy way to access many parts of the jungle), him looking for bugs, me searching for lizards. A couple miles from the car we ran into a number of beautiful ‘blues’. These very large and bright blue butterflies are a charismatic and favorite species of many tropical biologist. However, they are generally a serious bitch to catch.  Sometimes I have caught them asleep on tree trunks late at night, but Ummat managed to catch one and it was the first one  in the day time. The sunlight makes them even more spectacular.

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The underside of their wings have large beautiful eyespots. Designed to confuse or frighten would-be predators, these spots give them even more character. IMG_0025

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2 comments

  1. just curious, can you not use radio telemetry on insects? I’ve read studies in which it’s been used on butterflies. painting numbers on individuals and then re-catching them seems super time intensive. neat blog btw! love the pictures.

  2. Yes Molly, for bugs we use Harmonic Transceivers. These are tiny passive diodes that were originally developed to be sewn into ski-jackets to find avalanche victims. They can be REALLY small as they dont contain a battery. The problem is that it is very hard to track multiple animals at the same time. And it can be hard to tell which signal goes to what animal. Cool stuff though. I have never used them on bugs, but for frogs we make little backpacks they carry them around with =)

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