Canopy Family Panama

Banded Owl-Butterfly
Caligo atreus

Banded Owl-Butterfly Caligo atreus Canopy Lodge Panama
Photo by Jenn Sinasac


The Banded Owl-Butterfly is a large, striking butterfly common to the lowland rainforests and secondary forests of Central and South America, from Mexico to Peru. It has wide wings, with a wingspan of 14-16 cm. It is one of the most boldy marked of the owl butterflies; on its dorsal side, it is dark gray or brown, with a beautiful dark blue color on its forewings and a wide line of mustard yellow on its hindwings. On the underside, it is creamy brown and heavily marked with thin black lines and a bold buff stripe extending from forewing to hindwing. On the underside of each hindwing, a conspicuous dark “eye spot” rimmed with yellow and black resembles owl’s eyes, giving this species its name.

During the day, owl butterflies rest vertically on narrow tree trunks and vines, with their wings closed, showing off their large eye-spot, in order to deter predators. Caterpillars feed on several host plants including Calathea latifolia, Heliconia latispatha and Musa spp. When the caterpillars are in their final stage of growth before pupating, they are large (15 cm or more in length) and develop hairs resembling spines on their back and a crown made of four horns at the back of their head. The butterfly feeds on the fermenting fruits and nectar from a wide variety of plants, and can live up to 2 months. This beautiful butterfly can be found in the foothill forests surrounding the Canopy Lodge. 

Did you know? “Caligo” means darkness, which may refer to its daily time of activity – this species is crepuscular, meaning it is most active at dawn and dusk.

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