Beetles Lighting Up The Sky To The Sweet Smell Of Cheese   4 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog April 3nd 2011

Belly Up

The big news this week is that there have been no Puma sightings.  I do not know if this is simply as a result of the cats moving around the territory or the fact that over the past seven days no-one has been in the right place at the right time.

One person who found himself in that particular situation though, was a guest at Bosque, who while traversing a creek on the Zapatero Trail happened upon a Neotropical River Otter lying on its back in one of the small pools, while feeding on something it had caught, probably a crayfish.

On one of my nightly frog counts at the pond, I heard a rustling in the vegetation and out came a Tamandua, which proceeded to step down into the water before turning round and stepping out again before wandering off into the undergrowth.

Visitors, as usual have been seeing large numbers of all four species of monkey, agoutis are all around the grounds and most people do manage to see at least one White-nosed Coati.  There have been several sightings, again on the Zapatero Trail, of Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel, which looks like a small dark brown Chipmunk.

Patiently Waiting for Water

The little amount of rain that we have experienced this week would not seem to be affecting the frog numbers to any great extent.  The rainy season normally begins towards the end of April and the frog numbers have begun to swell in possible anticipation of increased precipitation.

The Smoky Jungle Frogs are now present around the pond in numbers far in excess of anything I have ever recorded in all my previous years here.  This could be because the population has flourished over recent years and with the conditions having been so dry over the past four months, this is the dampest spot they have to retire to.

The Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs are here every night but once more the numbers have started to build and there have been a few cases of egg-laying having taken place already.

A new noise has started to fill the evening air, or at least a call that has been missing for as long as the rain, Fitzinger’s Rain Frog is calling once more, encouraged by the few brief showers to find a mate.

At various points around the immediate hotel grounds, nests of iguanas have produced newly hatched juveniles.  During the day they can be found lying out over the low vegetation sunning themselves and at night they don’t seem to have moved as they can be found lying in exactly the same positions but sleeping with eyes closed.

Green Iguana

Leafing Through the Undergrowth

I found one interesting insect this week, or should I say it found me.  One day, sitting on the screen of my cabin was a katydid.  Generally I have lots of katydids in and around my cabin but this one was of particular interest due to its strong resemblance to a leaf.  Throughout the katydid family there can be found an increasing propensity to have evolved a body form that closely resembles the vegetation that they inhabit.  Some of the Leaf-mimicking Katydids have to be seen to be believed, but there is the rub, it is almost impossible to see them because the camouflage has been so well perfected.

This one resembled a green leaf, venation included, but being out in the open led to its discovery.

Perfumes For All Occasions

For the most part, the orchids to be found around the gardens and forests of Bosque bloom in December to January but at the moment in several locations around the lodge there is a very distinct orchid in flower.

Most of Costa Rica’s orchids, 88%, are epiphytic, that is, they can be found growing on the sides of other plants.  Orchids are the second most numerously named group of flowering plants on the planet.  They have a huge and varied number of ways in which they get themselves pollinated, some very weird and wonderful.

The orchids flowering at the moment are Lady of the Night, (Brassavola nodosa).  They have a relatively simple means of getting themselves pollinated.  The flower is a long tube shaped white structure that at night gives off a delicate sweet perfume that attracts in hawk moths.  The hawk moths hover in front of the bloom, they have a long proboscis which fits down into the flower from which the suck the nectar at night.  The plant then attaches the pollinaria to the moth which is then transferred to another plant when the hawk moth goes in search of more nectar.

Lady of the Night

The photograph of the orchid flower was taken on the side of a tree that also bears night flowering blooms, but conversely having a completely different scent, Calabash, (Cresentia alata).

Calabash is a bat pollinated tree and as you would expect with a bat pollinated tree the blooms appear at night.  The flowers can be found on the trunk and branches of the tree, a situation known as cauliflory.  This allows the bats to land in front of the flower without being impeded by the tree’s foliage.  Nectar feeding bats prefer musky smells rather than sweet smells, so unlike the heavenly scented orchid growing from its trunk, the Calabash gives off the distinct and heady aroma of sweaty cheese.


Nectar feeding bats have a good sense of smell, good eyesight and a reduced sense of echolocation; they find the flowers through sight and smell.  They have a long muzzle and long sticky tongue.  They land in front, stick their head and shoulders inside the flower, lap the nectar from the base and while they are doing that, the head and shoulders become dusted with pollen.  When the bat flies off to the next flower, it transfers the pollen and pollinates the plant.

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

Photo Feature

During the course of the year we have various species of organisms that create their own light which produce an almost magical feel to both the forest and gardens.  For those souls brave enough to venture into the woods at night, if they dare turn off their flashlights and wait a while until their eyes readjust to the darkness, a new faint and ghostly glimmer can be seen emanating from the forest floor.  Stooping down to see what it might be that emits such a hauntingly pale emission you will be amazed to find yourself looking at a piece of rotting wood.  Ramified throughout the dead twig or branch are the hyphae of a bioluminescent fungi, of which there are several species.  The glow they give off is almost imperceptible unless viewed with peripheral vision.  The fruiting bodies, mushrooms and toadstools which are more obvious at certain times of the year, have an eerie quality that take you straight into story books full of faerie folk from the shadow world.

When the conditions are wetter, we get the nightly display from the Fireflies.  Fireflies are not actually flies at all, but rather beetles.  Earlier in the evening just as the sun takes its final bow below the horizon and darkness descends over the lodge, small flashes of light, barely discernable in the half light, begin to flicker from the across the lawns.  At first there are just one or two, here and there, but as the day finally turns to night, more and now everywhere.  This heralds the emergence of the male Fireflies from down amongst the grass stalks where they have been hiding all day.

Each species gives off a different set of flashed signals, a coded message recognized by the females which live higher up in the vegetation and they respond with a different flashed code.  The males fly up to the top of the trees where the fireflies pair up and mate.

There are about 2000 species of firefly around the world, some of which are much larger than others.  There are females of a very large species, which use deception to get themselves a meal.  They copy the flashed signal of a smaller species female, the male flies in expecting to find a receptive female sitting waiting for him, but the reality is he is only going to find the large carnivorous jaws of a larger female waiting to consume him.

Fire Beetles.

The Fire Beetles are click beetles of the family Elateridae.  They have two bright bioluminescent spots on the dorsal surface of the pronotum behind the head.  At night these two spots glow like bright green headlamps.  The beetle has the ability to dim down or brighten the light at will.  If you touch one of the Fire Beetles, you will be astounded to see the lights blaze bright green.  When the beetle takes off and flies, one of the ventral abdominal segments glows with a bright orange bioluminescence which somewhat resembles a flying cigarette butt.

Fire Beetle

The term click beetle refers to the beetle’s ability to snap or click its body which will right the beetle if it is upside down and may also serve to bounce it some distance from a potential predator.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 93°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 77°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.02 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.13 ins

Average Daily Temp High 33.9 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 24.5 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.5 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.33 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Agouti
  • Kinkajou
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Neotropical River Otter
  • Collared Peccaries


  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Great Currasow
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Mangrove Cuckoo
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Streaked Flycatcher
  • Black-crowned Tityra
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Basilisk
  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Green Iguana
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Barred Forest Racer
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Salmon-bellied Racer
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake


  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Milky Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog


  • Adelpha boeotia
  • Adelpha iphiclus
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Anatrytone potosiensis
  • Anthoptus Epictetus
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Battus polydamus
  • Callimormus saturnus
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Colobura dirce
  • Consul fabius
  • Decinea percosius
  • Detritivora gynaea
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Emesis Lucinda
  • Esthemopsis colaxes
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Euselasia mystica
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Hamadryas laodamia
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excelsa
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia Chiron
  • Mechanitis lysimnia
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Melinaea scylax
  • Mesosemia zonalis
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Perophthalma lassus
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pompeius pompeius
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Strymon yojoa
  • Trigridia acesta
  • Urbanus dorantes
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna


  • Almendra Fruiting
  • Balsa Fruiting
  • Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia valeroi Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Fruiting
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • Jacaranda Flowering
  • Lady of the Night Orchid Flowering
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Passion Vine Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pochote Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Rubber Tree Flowering
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Flowering and Fruiting
  • Guanacaste Tree Fruiting
  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Schelea Palm Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

4 responses to “Beetles Lighting Up The Sky To The Sweet Smell Of Cheese

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  1. I love these updates, and such wonderful fotos, it is the next best thing to being there, since we can’t return this year. Thanks so much


  2. Another very interesting post Philip. As a matter of fact, due in part to your blogs, the draw of BDC has become too great. We just booked a week in mid-May. We are hoping that the amphibians will be hopping around in masses by then. It would be great if the iguanas were still around and of course the pumas too.

    During our last trip, we had huge green katydids living high in our bungalow. They were bright green and seemed to be the size of a fist. I wonder what we will share our bungalow with this trip…


  3. Newly hatched iguanas?! Hooray! 31 days until I’m there!! 🙂 Great article and photos Philip!!


  4. Excellent photos! Macros this good are no accident.
    See you this weekend.
    B & C & B & S


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