When I was a boy growing up in the Santa Clara Valley, now more familiarly known as ‘Silicon Valley,’ I loved to chase butterflies. My grandmother bought me a picture book about butterflies and I recognized some of them from those I saw flying around my neighborhood. We had swallowtails, monarchs and painted ladies, among those I recall.
Maybe a morning glory, my memory is a bit dim that far back in the distant past, so long ago that orchards covered the valley and nobody on the block could have told you what a transistor was.
I loved the beautiful butterflies in my book, but soon realized I would never see some of the most spectacular butterflies simply because they were from far away parts of the world.
Of all the butterfly species in the world, 18% can be found in Costa Rica, as are 66% of neo-tropical butterflies and 90% of Central American butterflies. All to be found in a tiny country which, as I am fond of pointing out, is about the size of West Virginia.
Butterflies are insects, with six legs and a three segmented body. They have large wings and antennae, which they use for smell and sense of balance. Their four part wings are fragile and are often damaged, but through the use of their antennae for balance, they can fly even with severely damaged wings. They feed on flower nectar, among other things, and play an important part in pollination of plant species.
Butterflies have a short life span, generally around 3 weeks. The butterfly’s main purpose in life is to reproduce. I guess if you are only going to live three weeks, you might as well try to have a little fun. After mating, the female butterfly lays around a hundred eggs and that’s IT. Some lay their eggs in bunches and others one at a time, each on a different leaf of a plant. Not many eggs will make it to the butterfly stage, less than 5%.
If the butterfly-to-be makes it past the egg stage they become caterpillars, whose mission statement is to eat a lot of plant matter and eventually spin its cocoon/chrysalis, which hangs upside down from a leaf or a branch. Eventually the cocoon/chrysalis will open and, voila, out comes a butterfly to spend its three weeks of glory before the whole cycle starts again. Rinse and repeat.
You can go out tromping through the wild and see many species on the wing, or you can visit one of the numerous, and I mean NUMEROUS butterfly gardens, located all around the country. You can click the link below for details. There is also a big collection of (dead) butterflies at the University of Costa Rica. You may even see a live one one on the sidewalks of downtown San Jose, as I have when I go to work at a sports betting software company.
Living close to nature as I do in the Monte Cielo Gated Community in Costa Rica, in the hills above Pacific near Jaco, I get the chance, after all these years, to see some of the beautiful butterflies in the book my grandmother gave me so long ago.
By the way, for those who don’t speak Spanish, the word for butterfly is ‘mariposa.’ Hasta luego!