A Bouquet For The Grave Robbers   2 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog May 23rd 2011


Rainy Days

I guess it is official, we are now in the wet season, or el invierno as it is called locally.  The rains have become progressively more frequent, of greater duration and more intense in volume.  The lucky thing has been that the rain has been falling at night when everyone is tucked up in bed.  The following morning, although overcast and with the ground wet, the days have remained relatively precipitation free allowing the guests to Bosque del Cabo to enjoy time on the beach, hiking or relaxing by the pool.

Comings and Goings

The Halloween Crabs that emerged on masse four or five weeks ago seem to have departed on their annual reproductive pilgrimage to the ocean.  There are still a few around but not in the numbers recently experienced.  They will be back though, and soon.

The butterfly numbers are now dropping precipitously as we move into the wet season.  Along with the crabs, they are still here, but the number of species and individuals doesn’t even come close to those encountered during February and March.

The amphibian numbers are high now, the conditions for frogs should be perfect for the next five or six months.  Most of the guests to Bosque will see the Black and Green Poison Arrow Frogs as they can currently be found on just about any of the property trails during the daylight hours.  But it is once the sun sets that the amphibian life comes into its own.  The heralds of the evening amphibian activity are the rarely seen but continually heard Tink Frogs and Fitzingers Rain Frogs.  The Milky Frogs, their explosive breeding episode now over, have retreated to the tree tops until next May, but that doesn’t mean the pond has been vacated.

Every night there are huge numbers of calling Marine Toads, Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs and Banana Frogs with lesser numbers of the Masked Smilisca, Gladiator Frog, Small-headed Frog and Smoky Jungle Frogs in evidence.

Most bird breeding has been completed by now and so the patterns of behavior change.

Flowers and Fruit

Some of the trees are still in flower.  Around the restaurant, the fragrant blooms of the Ylang Ylang, give off their night scented perfume.  The Heliconias, Costas and Gingers which decorate the borders of the gardens bloom all year round with their hummingbird attracting red, orange and yellow blossoms.  The weird and wonderful flowers of the Cannonball Tree and the stinky blooms of the Calabash Tree can be found not too far from the restaurant.

There are many fruits still to be found on the forest trails, the main ones at the moment are the Nutmegs and Manroño.  Mangoes litter the ground in the mango orchard, and as they rot and ferment give off the heady aroma of over ripe fruit.  The Fig Trees are also producing copious amounts of fruit, attracting the attention of, amongst others, of the Spider Monkeys, Blue Morph and Malachite butterflies.

Nutmeg     Manrono

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

 Stealing From The Dead

 Orchid Bees

A few days ago as I made my way from my cabin to the restaurant, I noticed the Chef, Roger, using his video to capture something that was happening on the ground in front of him.  Getting closer I could see a several small shimmering metallic blue balls, their forms shifting in an almost mesmerizing fashion.  Just in front of this strange phenomenon was a patch of glistening chips on the ground, as if someone had discarded polished pieces of anodized titanium and scattered amongst it fractured fragments of sapphire and emerald.  I had to investigate.  What I found was the scene of apian carnage

Orchid Bees

One of the Bosque vehicles had driven over a swarm of Orchid Bees, crushing many individuals and leaving their smashed remains spread across the ground.  Those that had survived were frantically trying to sequester the perfume making ingredients from the legs of their fallen comrades.  Two or three ping pong sized balls composed of frenetic bees seemed to move, hovering just above ground level, each one endeavoring to oust its neighbor in an effort to get to the disseminated body parts of the bejeweled cadavers.

Orchid Bees

Orchid Bees are tropical bees and although related to social bees such as the honey bee, familiar to most people, they are, for the most part, solitary by nature.  The females make a nest and provision the brood chambers with food, but do not look after the larvae.  The males live independently in the forest.  The male bees are perfumers par excellence.  Their lives are dedicated to finding and accumulating volatile and aromatic substances that act as a chemical base for perfume production.  The fragrances are stored in the greatly enlarged but hollow and internally matted hind legs.  In an attempt to find these chemicals, the bees will travel colossal distances during the course of the day.

Orchid Bees

Despite their bright and alluring appearance, Orchid Bees are something of an enigma. A lot of what they do and why they do it is not fully understood.  The behavior I was witnessing today has not been adequately explained.  Like many bees, the Orchid Bees visit flowers for pollen and nectar gathering.  The females seek out resins leaking from damaged trees to construct nests.  And as seen above the males are compelled to find perfumed scents.  One theory suggests that the amount of different aromatic odors collected by the males become more complex as the bee gets older.  The more substances it has collected the further it must have ventured.  So a male carrying a large number of different scents is therefore older and well traveled, thereby exhibiting all the attributes any female bee would want as genes for her offspring, essentially he is A SURVIVOR.

It is thought that the huge aggregations of humming metallic brilliance that are the bee swarms is most probably something to do with mating but there has, as yet, been no research carried out to confirm this idea.  It has been found though that the bees will jostle to gain an advantage in procuring the coveted scents when another male dies.  They steal his stash.  I am pretty sure that is what was happening here as some of the dead individuals were at the center of all the frenzied attention.

The Sweet Smell of Death

I picked up several of the unfortunately crushed victims to take away and photograph.  Within a short space of time after placing the dead bee on a perch, the odor of decay attracted the attention of some ants.  A small, unidentified ant species suddenly emerged in numbers and started trying to cut the bee body up and transport it away.  The ant numbers were overwhelming so it was me that had to change location for the photographs.

Why Orchid Bees?

While I was photographing one of the dead bees, I could see something attached to the bee’s head which I recognized immediately.  It was the pollinaria from an orchid.

Dead Bee With Pollinaria Attached to Head

Orchids are the most numerously species rich family of plants on the planet; 20,000 globally and 7,000 species in the Neotropics, 10% of which are pollinated by Orchid Bees.  Orchids have some weird and wonderful of getting themselves pollinated and with the bees, the primary attractant is scent.  Most flowers offer a reward of nectar to attract in the pollinators, but the orchids supply perfumes, and they do that in great quantity and complexity.  In come the males, their sensory apparatus finely tuned to the location of these sweet scents, the greater the quantity and complexity the better.  As the bee visits the orchid, the plant glues a pollen bearing structure, the pollinaria, on a part of the bee’s body, exclusively targeted by that species of orchid.  This ensures any one bee could pollinate a variety of orchid species.  On the individual I was photographing, the pollinaria had been attached to the right frontal side of the bees head.

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 89°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 75°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.75ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 5.26ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.2°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.5°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 19.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 134.8 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Virginia Opossum
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti




  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Currasow
  • Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Stripe-throated Hummingbird
  • Violet Woodnymph
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Marbled Wood Quail
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Masked Tityra
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture




  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake




  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Milky Frog
  • Small-headed Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog




  • Anartia Fatima
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Ascia monuste
  • Cupido comyntas
  • Detritivora gynaea
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excelsa
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morpho theseus
  • Morys valerius
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Perophthalma lassus
  • Pierella luna
  • Polites vibex
  • Pompeius pompeius
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Strymon joyoa
  • Urbanus proteus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna




  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Devil’s Little Hat Fruiting
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Mandroño Fruiting
  • Membrillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Pasmo Fruiting
  • Passion Vine Fruiting
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Rosa del Monte Flowers
  • Royal Palm Fruiting
  • Rubber Tree Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering



2 responses to “A Bouquet For The Grave Robbers

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  1. Pictures are excellent and very interesting information, keep up the great work, always like reading your wealth of knowledge.


  2. Great information as always…thanks Felipe! Your photography is getting really good.


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