The Urania Swallowtail Moth from Costa Rica
Sometimes called the Green-banded Urania, the Swallowtail Moth is a migratory moth that travels in large groups at day time whereas most moths travel at night.
The Urania Swallowtail Moth is found in Mexico, Central and South America. It mostly inhabits swamps and mangroves where it can find a rate of certain wood vines and a toxic flowering plant called Omphalea diandra in high numbers. The moth needs these plants for its caterpillars to feed and be protected from predators.
Mating & Reproduction
This moth undergoes population explosions that happen in every few years. When the population suddenly goes up, the migrations, which start at the end of July or beginning of August, can last as long as five months with hundreds of thousands of individuals moving north in mass. They are different from most other moths in that they make their journeys in the day, and are inactive at night.
It reproduces in Mexico, Central America and Panama, and the female deposits her eggs on the leaves of the Omphalea diandra plants that comprise a large part of its diet.
The Urania Swallowtail Moth has, possibly, one of the largest migrations of any insect in its range. The migrations, however, are not consistent due to the population explosions that are not annual. In migration, these two species often follow river courses. They also sunbathe openly with butterflies near rivers and other sources of water.
The Urania Swallowtail Moth feeds exclusively on the Omphalea diandra plant. These flowering plants are toxic, and more than likely have the effect of making the moth toxic, as well.
The Green-banded Urania and the Urania Swallowtail Moth are not actually the same species, but are sometimes treated as conspecific. The Green-banded Urania is actually somewhat larger than the Urania Swallowtail Moth. The scientific name of the Urania Swallowtail Moth is Urania Fulgens which means “heavens flash,” in Greek and Latin. Leilus, on the other hand, is simply the name for Leila in Latin.
Locations in Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park, La Amistad International Park, Tortuguero National Park
Diet: Omphaelea diandra
Migration Pattern: South to North from July and August through the fall
Habitat: swamps, mangroves
Size: length=10 cm (wingspan) 5 cm (larvae)
Species: Urania fulgens, Urania leilus