Starry Cracker Hamadryas laodamia Photo by Tino Sanchez The Starry Cracker is an eye-catching creature; it has velvety blue-black wings with bright blue iridescent spots. Unlike other crackers, males and females are sexually dimorphic; females have a broad white band across the forewing. This medium-sized brush-foot (family Nymphalidae) is not only one of the most beautiful butterflies, but one of the most interesting, as well. The common name “cracker” comes from the peculiar sound that the males make during their territorial displays and to deter predators. Members of this group have a swollen vein on their forewing that they can clap together in flight to produce a clicking sound, similar to the crackling of bacon in a frying pan! What is even more unique about this species in particular is that the Starry Cracker is the non-cracking cracker! It is believed to have lost this ability, and instead has adapted scent organs and sexual dimorphism to interact with other individuals. Like other Hamadryas, they perch on tree trunks, upside down and with their wings flat against the bark. They feed on rotting fruit, sap and animal dung. The Starry Cracker is found from Mexico through the Amazon Basin, in lowland humid forests up to 900m. They can be found throughout Panama, and are one of the more memorable butterflies encountered at our lodges! Fun fact! This butterfly is also called the Starry Night Cracker, inspired by Van Gogh’s famous painting.
Starry Cracker Hamadryas laodamia Photo by Tino Sanchez The Starry Cracker is an eye-catching creature; it has velvety blue-black wings with bright blue iridescent spots. Unlike other crackers, males and females are sexually
Orion Cecropian Historis odius This captivating, large butterfly has a wingspan of 11 cm (4 in.) and calls attention with its bright orange upperparts when flying. However, at rest, they fold their wings up, revealing their leaf-like brown underside, even showing a vertical line reminiscent of the vein of a leaf, providing excellent camouflage. They are very closely associated with cecropia trees—from laying their eggs on its leaves to perching high on its branches, all life stages of this species associates with cecropia trees. From the treetops, it flies down to the ground to feed on fermenting forest fruits, earning this species its nickname, the “Stinky Leafwing.” Males are attracted to rocky overhangs, riverbanks and muddy wallows to pick up dissolved minerals in the water. Keep an eye out for this common butterfly at eye level from the Observation Deck of the Canopy Tower, and at the fruit feeders at the Canopy Lodge and Canopy Camp. Strange defenses: The larval caterpillars produce frass-chains, which they dangle off the edges of cecropia leaves where they are resting to avoid being eaten by the resident Azteca ants.
Orion Cecropian Historis odius This captivating, large butterfly has a wingspan of 11 cm (4 in.) and calls attention with its bright orange upperparts when flying. However, at rest, they fold their wings
Blue-winged Helicopter Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus Photo by Domiciano Alveo With a wingspan of up to 19 cm, the Blue-winged Helicopter is the largest member of the dragonfly and damselfly order, Odonata. It is large, with a body length up to 13 cm, and slender. In addition to their large size, Blue-winged Helicopter damselflies have dark brown to black bodies with yellowish markings, and transparent wings with a dark blue band on the outer third near the wing tip. Males are distinguished by having a thick white band on the wings inside the blue band. Females lack this white band, but have a creamy white spot at each wing tip. Males are larger than females, which is unusual among dragonflies and damselflies. The Blue-winged Helicopter damsel is the only member of the genus Megaloprepus. The Blue-winged Helicopter damselfly is a member of the family Pseudostigmatidae, the helicopter damsels and forest giant damsels. They are called helicopter damselflies because their four wings beat independently, and appear to whirl around like the blades of a helicopter. Helicopter damselflies are only found in tropical regions, and require environments with plenty of rainfall – rainforests are their ideal home. This species is the most spectacular of Panama’s 6 species of helicopter damselflies. Blue-winged Helicopter damselflies are found in the understorey of tropical rainforests. They do not emerge to cross large clearings, and have poor flight endurance, resting often by perching on a leaf or twig with its abdomen hanging downward. They are most common in mature, old-growth forests and are not commonly found in secondary growth. Adult Blue-winged Helicopter damsels specialize in plucking spiders from their webs while in flight using their long legs. They prefer small, soft-bellied spiders that are easier to eat. Blue-winged Helicopter damsels breed in phytotelmata – small pools of water
Blue-winged Helicopter Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus Photo by Domiciano Alveo With a wingspan of up to 19 cm, the Blue-winged Helicopter is the largest member of the dragonfly and damselfly order, Odonata. It is
Rusted Clearwing-Satyr Cithaerias pireta Photo by Jenn Sinasac Also known as “Pink-tipped Satyr” and “Blushing Phantom”, this pretty, delicate butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae family, the brushfoots. It is one of the many striking, beautiful butterflies of tropical America, ranging from Guatemala, throughout Central America and into South America. Its clear wings lack scales, revealing the transparent wing membranes, highlighted with iridescent bright pink on the hindwings and an ocellus or “false eye”. It rests with its wings folded, raising its hind wings perhaps to resemble a small snake, deterring lizards or birds from eating it. This solitary, crepuscular butterfly flies primarily at dawn and dusk, close to the ground in deep, shady rainforest and cloud forest. It has a slow and bounding flight pattern. It rests often on the ground or low vegetation, but is easily disturbed and capable of moving fast to evade predation. Rusted Clearwing-Satyrs feed on rotting palm fruits and fluids from decomposing fungi. In Panama, they are found most commonly in the foothills up to 2000 meters in elevation, and are fairly common around the Canopy Lodge; they can also be seen in the lowland rainforests around the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp Darien.
Rusted Clearwing-Satyr Cithaerias pireta Photo by Jenn Sinasac Also known as “Pink-tipped Satyr” and “Blushing Phantom”, this pretty, delicate butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae family, the brushfoots. It is one of
Banded Owl-Butterfly Caligo atreus 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. The beautiful Banded Owl 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 – the Banded Owl-Butterfly is crepuscular, meaning it is most active at dawn and dusk.
Banded Owl-Butterfly Caligo atreus 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.
Red Cracker Hamadryas amphinome Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Red Cracker is a truly flashy butterfly! Among some very interesting behaviors, the Red Cracker butterfly is strikingly beautiful – bright metallic blue and black calico coloration on the upperside, bold white stripe across its forewings, complimented by fiery red-orange on the underside of the hindwing. Males and females are similar. It is a medium-sized brushfoot butterfly (family Nymphalidae) with a wingspan of 7.4-8.6 cm. Red Crackers rest head down on a tree trunk, often high up (10+ meters), with wings spread flat against the bark. While the calico pattern on the wings of some cracker species allows for camouflage with tree bark, the Red Cracker’s bright colors allow it to stand out and they are rather easy to spot. They descend to the ground to feed on rotting fruit, and will visit platform feeders. The female Red Cracker butterfly lays tiny white eggs in a chain up to a dozen eggs, hanging on the underside of a leaf. Larvae are black with yellow mottling on their back, covered in branching black and orange spines. Larvae feed gregariously on their host plant, Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae) and live communally. The chrysalis appears as a dried, withering leaf. The Red Cracker gets its name because the males are able to produce a crackling sound, reminiscent of bacon cooking in a frying pan. They make the sound when they take off, by twanging a pair of spiny rods on their abdomen against their anal claspers. Both males and females can detect the sound produced by the males, using tiny, hollow cells covered by membranes on their wings. As they vibrate, they stimulate nerve endings. It is thought that males produce this crackling sound as a territorial defense against other males, or possibly to attract
Red Cracker Hamadryas amphinome Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Red Cracker is a truly flashy butterfly! Among some very interesting behaviors, the Red Cracker butterfly is strikingly beautiful – bright metallic blue and
Giant Butterfly-Moth Castniomera atymnius Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Giant Butterfly-Moth is one of the most intriguing of Panama's insects. This diurnal moth creates much confusion when it comes to identification—it is easily confused with butterflies, as it flies during the day and even has clubbed antennae! At close glance, the robust body is an indication you are looking at a moth. This conspicuous, fairly large (wingspan 10 cm), daytime-flying moth is medium to dark brown in coloration with pale whitish lines on forewings. On the hindwings, a white, heart-shaped marking is often covered by resting folded forewings. Castniomera atymnius can be found commonly in the lowlands and foothills, where its larvae feed on Musaceae species. Castniomera atymnius is the only species in the genus Castniomera, and is comprised of several subspecies throughout its wide distribution from Mexico to Brazil. Keep an eye out for these bold moths around all the Canopy Family lodges. The family Castniidae (Giant Butterfly-Moths) is a small family containing approximately 170 species. Castniid moths are generally medium to large in size, having drab forewings with brightly-colored hindwings. They are found mainly in the Neotropics, but also have representative species from Australia and southeast Asia, where they are known as “Sun Moths”.
Giant Butterfly-Moth Castniomera atymnius Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Giant Butterfly-Moth is one of the most intriguing of Panama’s insects. This diurnal moth creates much confusion when it comes to identification—it is easily
Rothschild's Giant Silkmoth Rothschildia triloba Photo by Jenn Sinasac Rothschild’s Giant Silkmoths are among the largest and most beautiful of all moths. With a wide wingspan of 10-12 cm, they are approximately the size of a salad plate! Adult moths in the genus are distinguished by their large size, with transparent, triangular windows in each wing. Even as flashy, beautiful moths, they have various characteristics to assist with camouflage. The windows in the wings allow light to pass through, breaking up the wing profile and helping the moth avoid predation. Their wings also somewhat resemble a dry, decaying leaf with their cryptic patterns. Females have more rounded wings than males. Adults do not feed—after mating and laying eggs, their life's function is fulfilled. Rothschildia triloba is a rainforest canopy species, found in the lowlands and foothills from sea level up to 1400 meters. It is found in middle and upper levels of the forest. It is more reddish and larger than other species in the genus found within the same range. It is widely adapted and can be found in a wide variety of habitats. Caterpillars are large and green with some countershading. They are difficult to find since they feed on a wide range of low-density species as host plants, including members of the families Anacardiaceae, Bursuraceae, Euphorbiaceae, Moraceae, Rosaceae, Rubiaceae, Saliaceae and many others. Larvae spin a dense pendant cocoon firmly bound to a twig with a long silk extension. Cocoons are sloppy in appearance, resembling a messy cluster of dead leaves, and are placed low in the understory of the forest, often just 1-2 meters above the ground to avoid predation by monkeys and birds. When the adults emerge from the cocoons, they seek out and mate that same night. Adults are found at very low density
Rothschild’s Giant Silkmoth Rothschildia triloba Photo by Jenn Sinasac Rothschild’s Giant Silkmoths are among the largest and most beautiful of all moths. With a wide wingspan of 10-12 cm, they are approximately the
Giant Ceiba Borer Euchroma gigantea Photo by Jenn Sinasac This very distinctive beetle always captivates our guests—it’s one of the largest beetles around! In addition to its whopping size (5-8 cm), its robust, elongated body and hard elytra (outer wings) are an attractive metallic green with purplish and reddish tinges; however, often this shiny exterior is covered with a yellowish waxy powder coating, most prevalent on newly emerged adults, and wearing off as the beetle ages. Its pronotum (prothorax) has two distinct large black spots. This species has large eyes and segmented antennae. The larvae of the Giant Ceiba Borer are huge—the 12-15 cm grub which bores through fallen timber, feeding on decaying wood mostly of the Bombaceae family (softwood species including Ceiba, Pseudobombax and Ochroma), but also on Ficus species. They have a special gut bacteria that breaks down cellulose and helps digest wood. Adults are typically found walking around on the surface of tree trunks and thick branches, and they feed on leaves and pollen, frequently visiting flowers. They are diurnal, spending time sunning themselves on trees, and move slowly unless alarmed. Giant Ceiba Borers typically breed and lay eggs in August. Males produce a clicking sound with their elytra to attract females. Females lay eggs on decomposing logs, eggs are laid in four groups of 10 eggs on one stump, and the female will lay up to 240 eggs throughout her lifetime. Grubs take up to 2 years to develop, and receive no parental care. Giant Ceiba Borers are one of the largest members of the family Buprestidae (the metallic wood-boring beetles) and the only member of the genus Euchroma. Members of this family are notorious for damaging trees, and this species can possibly cause sufficient tree damage by eating the roots to cause the tree to
Giant Ceiba Borer Euchroma gigantea Photo by Jenn Sinasac This very distinctive beetle always captivates our guests—it’s one of the largest beetles around! In addition to its whopping size (5-8 cm), its robust,
Dirce Beauty Colobura dirce A common butterfly of the tropical lowlands and foothills, the Dirce Beauty (also known as Small Beauty) is easily recognized by its underside with black and white zebra striping, as it always rests with its head down and wings closed on tree trunks. The upperside of its wings are dark with a wide yellowish-white diagonal band on each forewing. The forewing is 3.5-3.7 cm in length. Eggs are white and laid in small clusters of 2-10. The striking aterpillars are black with white or yellow rosetted spines down the back and sides. The caterpillar’s head is shiny black with two prominent recurved white or yellow horns and a little crown of short black spines forming a ring around its head. Young caterpillars make frass chains along leaf edges. Caterpillars form aggregations on Cecropia leaves, their host plant. Aggregations may contain caterpillars of all instars. This interesting lepidoptera may be one of those where the caterpillar is even more arresting to encounter than the pretty adult butterfly! The host plants of the Dirce Beauty are Cecropia trees, particularly C. insignis, C. obtusifolia and C. peltata. Caterpillars feed exclusively on Cecropia leaves and stems. Adults have a rather grotesque diet, feeding on rotting fruits, juices of dead animals, animal feces and even wet fabrics. Dirce Beauty is essentially a canopy species, but it can be found at all levels from the ground to the canopy of the forest. Adults are found year-round. Ranging from Mexico to Argentina, Dirce Beauty is found in a wide range of habitats, mostly secondary growth, wherever Cecropia trees are found. In Panama, this common species can be found around all of the Canopy Family lodges. They are often seen perching on tree trunks, or on fruit feeders. Caterpillars have been seen in big clusters
Dirce Beauty Colobura dirce A common butterfly of the tropical lowlands and foothills, the Dirce Beauty (also known as Small Beauty) is easily recognized by its underside with black and white zebra striping,