Butterfly Garden Adventure
Written by Cyril Brass
No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a butterfly garden adventure. The creation of a natural tropical setting in a protected environment complete with lush vegetation, flowering plants and beautifully coloured butterflies, allows visitors to get close to some of Costa Rica’s more delicate wildlife species.
After all, Costa Rica has approximately eighteen percent of the world’s twenty thousand butterfly species. The explanation for such abundance of butterflies in this small Central American country is there exists a great diversity of tropical habitats which reflects in the wide variety and number of wildlife species including butterflies. From coastal beaches to forest covered mountains, butterflies can be seen regularly in the wild.
However, visiting a butterfly garden in Costa Rica provides the opportunity for guests to learn more about these amazing winged creatures and to view many of the species up close.
The netted enclosure allows the butterflies to fly freely, rest peacefully while the visitors walk amidst the natural habitats of these precious insects. Plus, these closely monitored mesh structures prevent outside intruders and predators like birds, lizards, snakes and spiders from preying on the butterflies during all the stages of their development.
The tropical vegetation planted in the gardens determines what butterfly species a visitor will be able to see, for it is specific plant species that attracts specific butterfly species. This creates a unique experience in each butterfly garden a person visits.
These host plants are the same place for the laying of eggs where the females were hatched themselves. They are the specific food source for the caterpillars of that particular species. The caterpillars are an eating machine, devouring tremendous amounts of vegetation as quickly as possible. By gorging themselves, the caterpillars grow quickly until it enters into the pupa (chrysalis) stage of metamorphosis, the final stage which results in the emerging of a beautiful winged creature.
Most butterfly gardens throughout Costa Rica have live display areas, letting visitors witness the transformation from tiny white eggs to fuzzy caterpillars to hanging pupa to colourful butterflies.
Also within the mesh covered gardens are colourful flowering plants. They provide sweet nectar, nourishment, for the adult butterflies to feast on. Fully developed butterflies do not eat the vegetation around them. They can’t. They have nothing to chew the plant material with. Instead their mouth consists of a straw-like tube (Proboscis) which is used to suck up the liquid nectar from the flowers. Ripened fruits like bananas and oranges are sometimes placed on small feeders throughout the garden to provide additional food supply for the adult butterflies.
Within the confines of the enclosed garden, butterfly activity is frantic and non-stop. Unless it is raining, then the butterflies quickly head for cover. But on bright sunny hot days, watch the butterflies carefree traveling around their protected environment. Swallowtails floating through intertwined branches and vines, landing softly on flower petals. Black winged Heliconius splashed with red and yellow stopping briefly on a broad leaf before heading off once more. Orange striped Paracaidas hovering over a sweet smelling flower.
With their unorthodox movements of swirling, dipping, gliding, drifting, they appear to be dancing about in indistinguishable directions.
Notice the detailed intricate designs and patterns on the wings of the Owl Butterfly, as it rests fanning themselves slowly opening and closing their wings. Identify the strikingly Blue Morpho with its brilliant metallic blue tones pass by against a backdrop of rainforest greenery. Look high and low on branches, under hanging leaves and on the ground. They are everywhere.
Wander slowly and quietly along the groomed pathways. Enjoy the interaction with the butterflies as they fly towards you, above you, around you, maybe, even land on you. On several visits to the butterfly gardens in Costa Rica, several butterflies have briefly landed on my arm, foot and top of my head.
Depending on the time of the year the number of butterflies varies. The best time is between June and November, coinciding with the rainy season. But in a more controlled environment like the meshed covered butterfly gardens many species can be seen any time of the year.
While in Costa Rica, whether you are looking for a rewarding discovery as an amateur Lepidopterist or a nature lover seeking a peaceful relaxing experience in a tropical oasis, I highly recommend a butterfly garden adventure.
For more information on the butterfly gardens in Costa Rica, checkout the following websites;
Spirogyra Butterfly Garden www.butterflygardencr.com
Monteverde Butterfly Garden www.monteverdeinfo.com/butterfly-garden/butterfly-garden.html
La Paz Waterfall Gardens www.waterfallgardens.com/lapaz-butterflies.html
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