I’m Getting Butterflies!

Morpho Eggs
Morpho Eggs

We’re all a flutter over here since we found our first batch of morpho eggs on the plants in the flight house.  Jon had originally ordered them from Costa Rica so all we had were the pupae.  Apparently they’re having fun reproducing!  The little greenish eggs look like Miracle Gro fertilizer to me.  You pop them off the leaves and that reminds me of Dots candy on that long strip of paper.   So we’ll see how I do raising these little guys and gals to adulthood.  There are about 145 in that cup above and I gathered more today.  They take 9 days to hatch.  The little ‘pillars (sorry, larvae) have red on them with spiky hairs that can irritate skin, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about those woes in the next couple of weeks.

I took the magnifying glass to it and you can see the tiny larvae inside of some.  It’s amazing how small these things are.  I’m glad one of my eyes is still pretty good!

Caligo (Owl butterfly) Eggs
Caligo (Owl butterfly) Eggs

These cute little tic tacs of Caligo eggs are laid on the tops of banana leaves.  Considering how many we see chasing after each other, we haven’t found that many eggs.  Speaking of Caligo’s, the one I’m taking care of did something weird the other morning.  It purred.  Like a fast clicking sound.  I think it was telling the morpho to buzz off.  More recently it vibrates its wing (I say that singularly because it’s now missing the entire right side of its other wing).  Usually seems to do it around food.  They definitely like to ‘talk’ in certain ways.  I’ve been noticing that the little larvae even fight with one another if they get too close.  Such personality!

Here are some other critters flying around in the house:

Flight house
Flight house

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Malachite
Malachite (check out the spikes on those chrysalis!)

We found this thing the other day hanging under a leaf and figured it was some crazy looking chrysalis (getting used to that).  So we glued it to the cardboard with the rest, only to find the next day it had become unglued somehow and moved to the top of the box.  Very odd.  I think it could be a junk bug, which carries pieces of STUFF around with it for a disguise.  Super creepy.

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Finally, a cool spray painting of Bob Marley we passed by the other day along the road:

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Love Me or Loathe Me

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Here’s to all of my friends and family in the upper 48…I know you’re cold.  I know you’re miserable and I’m sorry.  January is a cruel month for most everyone up there.  But down here, I got to go to the beach and get a tan!  It was my first trip to a Panamanian beach!  There were about 20 people there so of course I felt crowded.  I stuck around the water, found some weird giant sand fleas, got stung or bitten by something in the water a few times and saw some giant silvery thing near the beach in the water come out and disappear.  This is the Pacific side and although the water was nice, it wasn’t that bathtub clear kind of water…but hey, I’ll still take it.   Here are some photos:

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On the way back, we had to run errands and stopped at this furniture place along the side of the road.  I commented on how disturbing it was that people cross highways all of the time.  Speed limits are just suggestions it seems so when it’s 100 km/h, people can be doing 60, 40, 200…whatever.  I just know one of these days I’ll see someone get hit.  

Every mother's nightmare
Every mother’s nightmare

So I’m waiting in the truck and a little girl on a bike and her grandfather were walking along the side of the road near me.  The speed limit here is 100 (62 mph) and semi’s, trucks, cars are whizzing right by her as she just stands there alone with her bike.  I’m going crazy in my head wondering where her mom is…not that she’d care…it’s just a way of life here.  Chickens were picking at the gravel dangerously close to the road too and you see people just walking with bags of stuff like it ain’t no thang.  Sigh….

Ok, well on to the butterflies.  The other day I was looking for some larvae (caterpillars) in the flight house and noticed this yellow one that was munching on the yellow flowers.  It blended in so well you can barely tell it’s a critter!  P1030762

Then we have some passion flower vines out back and I noticed the tiny passion flowers on them.  They aren’t the ‘normal’ huge kind that you can put in the palm of your hand.  They’re petite, dainty little flowers that tiny bees like to pollenate.  They make these little fruits (yet to determine if I can do anything with them) but it’s a host plant for some of our larvae.

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I don’t recall if I mentioned how I’m taking care of some crippled butterflies.  The first shipment we got wasn’t packaged properly and that messed up quite a few butterflies.  A morpho had one of its top wings fall off so it couldn’t fly.  I feed it and make sure it’s ok and have been bringing it in at night with me in its box.  If I find other butterflies that can’t eat or fend for themselves, I put them in there too and make sure they’re as happy as I can make them.

My crippled morpho
My crippled morpho

Here are some other pictures of the Caligo’s munching on their fruit and a green malachite butterfly which is one of my favorites!

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Get the feeling you’re being watched?

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We got a new batch of pupae (chrysalis) in yesterday so we hot glued them to cardboard and hung them in the boxes.  Some were neat…completely blingy gold, looking like Christmas ornaments while others look like dried shrimp.  Some looked like a moldy branch and others were dainty little green spinner tops.  Two even had these jokerfaces on them which were strange.

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OH!  And finally I wanted to show you just how tiny the larvae are when they emerge from their eggs.  Remember I showed you the little yellow egg at the end of the tendril last time?  We collect those and wait for them to hatch.  Out comes a teeeeeeny tiny caterpillar that you can barely see.  This photo was taken through a magnifying glass.  You can see the two tiny ‘pillars on the lower left if you click on the picture to enlarge it.  Amazing!

Newborn Larvae
Newborn Larvae

Smarty Plants

'Fake' eggs
‘Fake’ eggs

Well, not unusual, but I learned something new about one of my favorite plants…the passion flower!  As Jon was teaching me how to look for butterfly eggs on the leaves of the passion vine (which are small and yellow), I thought I was seeing a lot of them.  There were these little yellow dots all over the leaves!

He explained that the plant has ‘learned’ that the butterflies don’t like to lay their eggs next to other eggs.  So the plant started making these yellow dots on itself to fool the butterflies into thinking they were eggs so they wouldn’t lay them.

Real egg
Real egg

The reason it doesn’t want them is because the larvae (caterpillars) eat those leaves.  So in order to ‘save itself’, it has evolved in this manner.  How freeking amazing is THAT?  And how long did it take for the plant to do this?  And HOW did the plant know that the eggs were YELLOW!?!?  I think that’s what is really baffling.  So we often find eggs laid on the tendrils of the vine where the yellow spots haven’t formed and it’s nice and tender.  We also find them on the ends of brand new leaves.  So I wonder if the plant will evolve further to keep the eggs off of it somehow.

The citrus fruit just gets weirder.  Remember the orange limes and green oranges in Costa Rica?

Striped oranges
Striped oranges

Well here the lemons can be orange inside, the limes inside are either green or yellow and I just noticed these striped oranges in the yard today.  snozberries STRIPED ORANGES!?!?

It’s like Willy Wonka lives here.  Next thing I’ll find are snozberries!

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Caligo’s right after emerging

Some of the Caligo’s have emerged from their chrysalis and I got picture of them before they left their box.  Pretty neat looking butterflies.  One edge of them looks like a lizard/snake face and when fully opened, looks like an owl.  I’ll add some pictures of the Caligo and Blue Mexican butterflies.  One hung onto my shorts for a while today!

Mexican blue
Mexican blue
Caligo and Mexican Blue
Caligo and Mexican Blue
Oooo pardon me!
Oooo pardon me!

Babysitting Butterflies (to be)

Goodbye Costa Rica
Goodbye Costa Rica
Hello Panama City
Hello Panama City

I’ve arrived at my new destination as of yesterday and started becoming acquainted with the folks that have so generously given me a place to live and their soon to be butterfly farm!

But first, a little backtracking on my last days in Costa Rica.  Yes, I was sad to leave and to have to ‘give the house back’ to the owners who came in a day before I left.  We had a nice lasagna dinner and conversation.  I walked the property with Paul so he could see how it changed and grew!  They are a lovely couple and I was so glad to have helped them as much as they helped me.  It was hard to say goodbye but like a shark, I must keep moving!

So I took the bus from Turri to San Jose and almost threw up a couple of times due to the fact I was seated by the window with only a view out the side which is never a good thing for me.  It was curvy, muggy, rainy and warm which is a bad combination for someone who battles motion sickness.  I’d never had a problem until that day.  The guy I was sitting next to spoke English and I asked if we could switch seats so I could see out the front.  The bus driver kept eyeing me, obviously he’d seen this look before.  I got out in Cartago (after the windy road and an hour into the trip) to get some air.  I hoped not to lose it in the trash can in front of the people on the street and in the bus.  I managed to hold it down.  Got some air and re-boarded.  Thankfully, I arrived to the bus station in half way decent condition where my friends came to pick me up.

Chalo and Hannia
Chalo and Hannia

I thought we’d have lunch but I was still full from breakfast and not in the mood for food.  So we went to a food court and Chalo ate, but Hanni and I didn’t.  It was a good way to kill time.  They’re a wonderful couple and the nicest people I met there.  I’m really going to miss them and hope to see them again sometime.

So the good news was that I realized I had bought a first class ticket to Panama!  YES!!!!  Love it when that happens.  Seat 1A baybeeee…my favorite.  Got a fairly decent meal, wine and before I knew it, we had landed.  Of course the luggage took FOREVER to get to us, and by that time the customs line was outrageous.  Anyway, after that all went well.  My ride was there, I got a nice historic tour on the way to Tryp Wyndham at Albrook mall from Thomas so that was nice.  And no, my caps lock is not stuck on…THE HOTEL ROCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Wow…I wish I could have stayed there for a MONTH.

Upstairs cafe at Tryp Wyndham Panama City. CHEAP!!! $2 coffee, best I've had in a LONG time.
Upstairs cafe at Tryp Wyndham Panama City. CHEAP!!! $2 coffee, best I’ve had in a LONG time.
Bathroom at Tryp
Bathroom at Tryp
Big ol TV at Tryp
Big ol TV at Tryp
Unbelievably comfy bed with blackout curtains.  I could have slept three months.
Unbelievably comfy bed with blackout curtains. I could have slept three months.
PC at night
PC at night

I hit it at the right time, after all the tourists had gone back home and I literally had the dining room at dinner to myself for crab cakes, the cafe for breakfast to myself and the tapas bar for dinner to myself (shrimp ceviche).  I love that.  Had a good conversation with the bar tender for over an hour in Spanish so yeah…I’m gettin’ there.  I had  a freaky coincidence of seeing my old friend in the mall whom I have NOT seen in at least 25 years now (he lives in Panama) so we caught up and then we met for breakfast the next morning in the mall as well.  Good to see him and catch up in person. IMG-20140106-01361

Then, before I knew it, I had to leave.  I met Jon and Linda nearby at a cafe after shopping extensively at the mall (which was attached to the hotel).  We did MORE mall shopping (wheeeeee!) but wasn’t able to find me a bike.  No worries…I’ll get one eventually.  It’s nice and flat in El Valle so I’m looking forward to getting one.  I got to do some grocery shopping which always makes me happy, especially HERE.  Food is cheap, more of a selection and I even got SHRIMP!!!!!!!  Wow.  I ate crab cakes and shrimp at the hotel (oh and two filet mignon’s for LUNCH).   Can’t leave out that Cinnabon for breakfast the last day because it’s been years since I’ve had one.  In food heaven.

So there was a wild rush trying to find things they need for the business and we didn’t get home until after dark.  I get this big house all to myself (pictures to come later) so for that I’m happy.  I went and bought some things today to make it a little more comfortable and fell back on my pasta dinner.  I went around town a bit today and got some knick knacks seeing that I don’t have to pay for rent or utilities.  I can splurge to try and make my living space more homey and comfortable.  Had lunch in town and bought some fruit.

I came back and Jon and I went into the flight room to collect eggs or caterpillars and Linda came back from the city with a box of pupae!

See those little specs? Those are butterfly eggs!
See those little specs? Those are butterfly eggs!
Whole mass of caterpillars workin' that life cycle
Whole mass of caterpillars workin’ that life cycle

Three kinds.  Some had already emerged and were not looking good.  For the rest, we had to pin or hot glue them on cardboard and put them in their little boxes.  I get the joy of being the babysitter for them, as they’re in my house tonight!

It got creepy when they’d wiggle around inside there as we tried to pin or glue them…just odd.  Some look like dead leaves (those are the cool big owl butterflies) and some that look like Christmas lights or what I called little jalapeno’s.  They’re like little body snatcher pods but at the moment all are hanging out quite calmly.  But they will emerge into big beautiful butterflies and make us all happy!

Box 'o Butterflies-to-be
Box ‘o Butterflies-to-be
Pupae of the jalepeno and leaf kind.  haha!
Pupae of the jalepeno and leaf kind. haha!
Butterflies awaiting to emerge
Butterflies awaiting to emerge

Tomorrow we will work on many different things in order to get things up and running, so stay tuned, LOTS more to come 😉

Here are some more photos:

Passion Fruit with weird hair over them
Passion Fruit with weird hair over them
Bagged up caterpillars munching to their delight
Bagged up caterpillars munching to their delight