Catching canopy feeding butterflies

The Magnificent Swallowtail Papilio garamas is one of those charismatic species of butterfly whose range is restricted to the highlands. It’s habitat is also high up in the canopy and rarely ventures to lower levels of the forest. It can most often be seen in the light gaps of the forest soaring slowly and effortlessly like a raptor in broad circles. One of our trails, the La Amistad Trail, ventures into the habitat of this species and recently we were able to catch a male specimen in pristine condition. After 10 minutes of watching this butterfly elusively out of reach, another male appeared and both males started spiraling and swirling in a combative struggle that brought them down out of the canopy and within reach of our net. The one male was caught and a visiting entomologist who wishes to remain anonymous, had the good fortune to secure this specimen.

When we showed these images to the next group of visitors, this inspired them to come up with a net to reach high up in the canopy where another male was spotted feeding on the orange tubular flowers of a mistletoe. With the help of a local stand of bamboo, an extension on the net was made gaining access to the lower blossoms of this mistletoe.

Bamboo net extension reaching up into the canopy…….a desperate move.

After 30 minutes of struggling without success, we then observed the butterfly soar out from the canopy of the tree and head lower toward the stream. In the hope that perhaps he would drink or feed on minerals in the mud by the stream, Kevin took off in hot pursuit and on the link you get to witness the high drama on video of the successful catch of this Papilio garamas. The video is short on detail but allows you to experience the high drama of the moment.

Here is a close up of the mistletoe blossoms visited by Papilio garamus

Mounted specimen of Papilio garamas

Another beautiful highland species is the Anetia thirza insignis, of the Danainae tribe and cousin to the Monarch. Recent visitors also secured the specimen showed on the photos here.

Anetia thirza insignis

Underside of Anetia thirza insignis

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