These large butterflies appear to look like the eyes and face of an owl from the back, and this may be a defense mechanism for this peculiar and intriguing insect.
There are 20 different species of Owl Butterfly found in the rainforests, tropical forests and secondary forests of Mexico, Central and South America. In Costa Rica, they can be found at Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Cahuita National Park and Palo Verde National Park to name a few. They inhabit a range of elevations and ecosystems.
Mating & Reproduction
The total lifespan of an Owl Butterfly is about 125-133 days. Owl Butterflies spend very little time in the adult stage of their life, and so they begin looking to produce fertilized eggs from the onset of their emerging from the cocoon or chrysalis. Once mated, the female will often lay her eggs on heliconia, coffea trees or banana tree plants.
The eggs remain in gestation for about 22 days, and after emerging as caterpillars, they take on as many nutrients from their host plants as possible. They are caterpillars for almost two months before forming their chrysalis which they remain in for about a month. They emerge from their chrysalis, and live for another 21 days tops.
These butterflies fly early in the morning or late in the evening as the sun is either dawning or setting. They feed of the juice of decaying fruits, and are fond of bananas, pineapples and mangoes. They will also drink the nectar of certain flowers for nourishment such as the heliconias or banana trees. The butterflies are often seen sipping from puddles and wet sand banks that help the butterflies in not only retaining water but also salts. These salts are thought to help the male Owl Butterflies in fertility.
Owl Butterflies are generally large in terms of their wingspan, and of the 20 known species they are varied in their color morphs. They enjoy sun basking, because many butterflies are considered to be cold blooded. Basking butterflies can raise their internal temperature to higher than the temperature around them.
Locations in Costa Rica: Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Cahuita National Park and Palo Verde National Park
Diet: decaying fruit, nectar
Migration Pattern: non-specified
Habitat: rainforests, tropical forests, lowland forests, montane forests
Size: length=65-200 mm
Species: Caligo eurilochus, Caligo Memnon, Caligo brasiliensis et al