Honey Dripping Death Dealers   1 comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Dec 19th 2011


Week after week I report that the rainy season is almost at an end but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  This week has seen more or less constant rain.  It is not as heavy as during the really wet months but none the less it is incessant.

Long, Slow Colors

During those few moments when the sun has managed to break through, we have had some butterflies coming to the Lantana bushes to feed.  The most frequent visitors have been the Heliconiids or longwings.  Three species in particular are the most prevalent: Heliconius eratoHeliconius ismenius and Heliconius sapho.

Heliconius erato

The longwings belong in the subfamily Heliconiinae of the family Nymphalidae.  Nearly all of the heliconiids are resident in the neotropics.  The larvae feed on plants of the Passion Flower family and so they are commonly known as Passion Flower Butterflies.

Heliconius ismenius

Along with feeding on nectar as most other butterflies do, the longwings also feed on pollen.  It is thought that the nitrogenous rich pollen somehow allows the butterflies to manufacture their own noxious tasting defenses protecting them against predators.  The pollen is also required by the females to aid in egg production.

Heliconius sapho

There are many species of longwing and sometimes it is difficult to tell one species from another because they frequently exhibit Mullerian mimicry whereby two poisonous species of butterfly are so closely patterned and colored that it is hard to tell them apart.

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

Little Balls of Fluff

One morning as I was walking through the mango orchard I saw some strange looking creatures under a leaf.  I had seen them on some different plants earlier in the year but never managed to take a photograph.  On this occasion I returned with the camera and took some pictures.

Mealy Bug

I had noticed that the weird insect was being constantly tended by ants.  On closer inspection I thought the insects maybe some sort of aphid or mealy bug.  When I finally downloaded the photograph and I could see the detail more closely I was fairly sure I had been looking at mealy bugs.

Mealy Bug

Mealy bugs belong to either of the families Pseudococcidae or Eriococcidae.  The males are small and winged whereas the females are wingless sap feeders.  They tend to be plant host specific.  They can become a serious plant pest if they reach infestation proportions.  In large numbers they can drain a plant of its sap as well as being vectors for the transmission of plant pathogens.

Like several other families in the suborder Homoptera, they produce wax and this is what I had been seeing.  The sedentary females were not only covered in flakes of wax but the long filamentous threads were also wax secretions from glands on various parts of the body.

The ant association is also typical behavior.  Many aphids and mealy bugs produce “honeydew’, which is a carbohydrate rich overflow from the alimentary canal due to the quantity of sap they ingest.  The ants gather this “honeydew” and will sometimes farm aphids, protecting them from predation in order to obtain the continuous sweet reward.

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 81°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.83 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 5.79 ins

Average Daily Temp High 25.0°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.3°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 21.44 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 150.07 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Striped Hog-nosed Skunk
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel


  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Roadside Hawk
  • White Hawk
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Rufus Piha
  • Spectacled Owl
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Brown Vine Snake
  • Canopy Anolis
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Common Basilisk
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anolis


  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog


  • Anartia Fatima
  • Caligo atreus
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Pierella luna


  • Aphelandra golfodulcensis Flowering
  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Mountain Rose Flowering
  • Ox Eye Vine Fruit
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting


One response to “Honey Dripping Death Dealers

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  1. Felipe, my husband Brian and I spend some days at Bosque Del Cabo last March and went on every tour you offered. It was a transformative stay for us and we hope to return to Osa soon. Meanwhile, I very much enjoy your blog. As an avid amateur photographer, I am in awe of your photos and wanted to let you know how much I enjoy them. Thank you for all you do. All our best for 2012. –Eric Rosenbaum, NYC


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