Well, it’s Friday once again bug fans, and that means it’s time for another edition of Friday Flyers! We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you’re recovering from the day-after guilt from eating too much. If you’re stuck in your chair, this might be a good time to enjoy this week’s edition or even review any of the past Friday Flyers that you may have missed or forgotten. All the previous texts are still up on Facebook and all the previous photos are in our album. The more you know, the more you’ll want to learn! This week we decided to feature one of the less collected groups of butterflies---the Glass Wing butterflies.
There are actually many butterflies that could qualify as Glass Wings, but we’re going to concentrate on one small group for now, and save the others for another time. This week we’re going to tell you about the Satyrid butterflies that would fall into the Glass Wing category. Glass Wing butterflies are transparent, as their common name implies. By contrast, most of the Satyrid butterflies are colored in various shades of brown to black, often highlighted by other Earth-tone colors like beige and muddy orange, sometimes with blue. Most of the Satyrids have “eye spots” on their wings near the borders. For most collectors, Satyrid butterflies are not a very interesting family, and their small to medium size isn’t too impressive either. But the few species of Glass Wing Satyrids are stunningly beautiful. Their wings have almost none of the colorfully pigmented scales that cover the wings of most butterflies. They are essentially black colored wing veins with the transparent wing membrane stretched between them, kind of like a “clear kite”. There are a few markings on the bottom of their hind wings usually incorporating an eye spot, and a few of the species are suffused with the most beautifully colored scales that are almost electric in intensity and at times the color seems to “float” above the wing surface. In a world of brightly colored butterflies, these little beauties are often the highlight of a collection drawer or of framed butterfly artwork.
The Glass Wing Satyrids are deep rainforest dwellers, native to Central and South America. They stay primarily in the darkest shadowy areas and rarely venture into the well lit areas. And you’ll never see them near the forest perimeter. In the shadows, their clear wings make them almost impossible to see. In addition, they are very timid if you approach them to take a picture. You need a good telephoto lens. The most difficult thing about observing them is their flight habit. They fly with a quick jerky erratic motion, and NEVER fly more than about 6 inches off of the ground!!! In the rainforest the ground is always covered with dead leaves. And the tiny patches of sunlight that do shine on the ground create such a stark contrast between light and shadow, that it is nearly impossible to focus your eyes on these darting transparent little jewels. Most of the time, you don’t even realize what you just saw until it’s too late and they’ve gone back into the underbrush. In addition, the thick tangle of jungle plants at ground level makes it impossible to catch a Glass Wing in a net. They escape capture 99% of the time. So even though these butterflies are locally common, collectors never catch many. Also, these deep-forest butterflies never wander too far from where they grew up. It is very typical for them to remain within a 100-yard radius for their entire lives!
So if the Glass Wings are difficult to see and impossible to catch, how do you get to observe them? The secret is BAIT. The rainforest floor has virtually no nectaring flowers, and since these butterflies are confined to the ground, they have evolved different feeding habits. They get most of their nutrition from drinking minerals from wet mud puddles, or from rotting fruit that falls from the canopy. As a result of the scarcity of natural food sources, they will happily feed at man-made sources. We have found that a mixture of old bananas and brown sugar works extremely well. In the morning we put this mixture in plastic food trays or on large leaves, and by the end of the day the butterflies will have found their way to the bait. They will sit and feed quietly for many minutes at a time, allowing you plenty of time to get the perfect photo. For the best results, we usually try to put the bait in a well lit spot so that the camera has more light to work with. These beautiful Glass Wing butterflies are insects that very few people ever see alive in their natural habitat. So this week we’re happy to be able to introduce them to you with some hard to get photos that we took on location in the rainforest. And for a close-up look at the real thing, we always have some on display in our Wonders Of Nature department. We’re sure you’ll love them too!
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.
A true favorite of ours! This is an exceptional Glass Wing Satyr butterfly from Ecuador. We took this picture while on one of our research trips. It took almost an hour of remaining in a crouched position, motionless, waiting for it to arrive and sample our bait. This was one of the best pictures we took in the jungle!!
Collectors will find this picture amazing! These clear Satyr butterflies are rarely seen, and to see two and capture them on film was a tremendous thrill for us. We took this picture while conducting a field survey in Ecuador.
The rarest of all Glass Wing butterflies!!! We took this picture and documented this species' existence while on one of our research trips. In all our time in the jungle, we only encountered three specimens.
A composite plate of typical Satyrid butterflies. These are species that we encountered during our research trips to Ecuador. By contrast, the Glass Wing Satyrids are strikingly beautiful!
A rare clear Satyrid butterfly from the Amazon. In all our weeks in the jungle, we only saw a handful of these. They live deep in the jungle and prefer to stay off the path.
The rarest Glass Wing butterfly!