Archive for the ‘Automeris moth’ Tag

Grumpy and Toxic if Touched   Leave a comment

Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Last week continued to be hot and sunny.  There was not a drop of rain.  The trails through the forest are now becoming heavily cracked.  The lawns around the lodge are definitely more brown than green.  The forest however remains vibrant, there is no sign of drought stress.  The huge volume of water that fell as rain last November has ensured that the creek is still running quite well, more so than would be expected for this time of year.  The dry season is typically when a lot of leaf fall occurs.  That is the case at the moment.  The trails are cleared and a few days later there is a layer dry, brittle brown leaf covering the path once more.  Some of the trees that have been in bloom over recent weeks are coming to the end of the flowering period.

Felipe del Bosque. Philip Davison.

The Forest Floor is Rapidly Drying and Cracking Up.

Brushing Toxic Hair

Although I spend my days monitoring butterfly populations and see plenty of the adults flying around, it is only very occasionally that I see the larvae or caterpillars.  It may well be that because I am not actively searching for them that I am not seeing them.  There are over 7,000 named species of butterfly in the Neotropics and that number is dwarfed by the number of moth species.  Many butterflies and even more moths have unknown life histories.  Quite often we don’t know what the larval form looks like or what host plant they feed on.

Unidentified Moth Caterpillar.

Unidentified Moth Caterpillar

Caterpillars are the feeding and growing period of the butterfly or moth life cycle.  Feed and grow they do and at an amazing rate.  Caterpillars are quite often restricted to feeding on a single species of plant, sometimes on a few species within one genus or sometimes several species in the same family.  Each species does not have a large variety of choices.  After hatching from the egg, the caterpillar can increase in size by over a hundred times before it pupates.

Being a large, constantly and rapidly growing creature, the caterpillar has to remain unseen by predators or if seen, then has to have a secondary range of defenses such as irritating spines or hairs or to feed on plants poisonous to other creatures, store the toxins within its own tissues and warn off potential predators with bright warning, (aposomatic), coloration.

Over recent weeks I have stumbled across several caterpillars as I was out walking around the forests of the Osa Peninsula.  I was not looking for them, they just happened to catch my eye.  Any caterpillar sporting a battery of spines or hairs is one that you should avoid handling.  The spines and hairs may exude toxin secretions that can cause intense irritation.

Saddleback Moth Caterpillar. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Saddleback Moth, (Acharia hyperoche), Caterpillar.

The caterpillar of the Saddleback Moth, (Acharia hyperoche), usually hides on the underside of the palm leaves on which it is feeding.  It has green coloration that helps it blend in with its background.  The saddle marking may help to break up its outline.  If the ruse does not work and it is spotted by a keen-eyed predator, then it has a second line of defense.  The body anterior, posterior, laterally and dorsally has fleshy protuberances that carry batteries of sharp urticating spines.  The slightest brush against this living, toxic slug-like creature will result in a red itchy rash and a certain degree of pain.  Many other species of moth in the same family, Limacodidae, are protected in the same fashion.

Limacodidae. Philip Davison. Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge.

Unidentified Limacodidae species.

Another group of species which belong to the Silkmoth family, Saturniidae, more particularly of the subfamily, Hemileucinae and the genus Automeris also have caterpillars which protect themselves in a similar fashion.  The body is green and quite literally covered in urticating bristles.  The adult Automeris moths are very distinctive too.  The dorsal surface of the forewings are colored and patterned to resemble dead leaves.  Should anything disturb these particular leaves though they are in for a shock.  The forewings swing forward which reveals two large eye-spots on the dorsal surface of the hindwings.  As far as the predator is concerned it could well be looking at a much larger predator staring back at it from the ground.

Automeris sp.

Automeris sp. Caterpillar

Saturniidae. Hemileucinae.

Automeris sp. Adult.

Sometimes it may prove prudent to let a potential predator know that you are likely to cause them harm when touched.  Some of the Dagger Moths, (Acronicta spp), caterpillars are covered in long lemon yellow hairs with contrasting black tufts.  If touched these hairs can break and become embedded in the skin.  The longer black hairs are attached to a gland than secretes a toxin that will leave a nasty little rash on human skin.

Acronicta sp.

Dagger Moth sp. Caterpillar.

As well as the finding  of caterpillars is difficult, then locating the chrysalis’s is equally, if not more, challenging.  Admittedly I don’t go looking for them and so if I do discover one then it is entirely by chance.  The one species that I find more than others is the Narrow-banded Owl-butterfly, (Opsiphanes tamarindi).  That may be due to the fact that the larvae feed on Heliconia, Maranta and Bananas of which there are many plants around the bar and restaurant areas of Bosque del Cabo.  A chrysalis has little by way to defend itself and so crypsis might be the best option.  Green coloration is a good way of camouflaging yourself against a background of green vegetation.  This one I noticed hanging from the underside of a leaf beside the bar.

Narrow-banded Owl-butterfly. Nymphalidae. Morphinae.

Narrow-banded Owl-butterfly, (Opsiphanes tamarindi). Chrysalis.

Grumpy Big Head

There are six species of Anolis lizards living on the Osa Peninsula.  On the grounds of Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge I have encountered five of those species and the remaining one as an ,isolated population several miles away.

When I was out walking the Titi Trail this week I saw a the Big-headed Anole, (Anolis capito), lying languidly on the root of a large fig tree.  As I slowly approached with the camera in hand, it opened one of its eyes and looked at me with a doleful expression as if to say don’t even think of bothering me.  But I did take some photographs and each time the flash went off the lizard moved, almost imperceptibly, further around the root in a direction away from me.

Big-headed Anole. Polychrotinae. Igunaidae.

Big-headed Anole, (Anolis capito).

The Big-headed Anole is one of the larger anolis lizards in this area.  It attains a length of 9 inches including the tail.  It’s body color is a mottling of greens, greys and browns.  It can be found on the trunks of trees where it normally perches head down waiting for food items, arthropods or small lizards, to pass by.

Slender Anole.

Slender Anole, (Anolis limifrons).

Two of the more commonly seen anolis lizards are the Slender Anole, (Anolis limifrons), and the Golfo Dulce Anole, (Anolis osae).  Both of these species can be commonly found around human habitation.  The Slender Anole as the name suggests is a small slim species, mottled brown in color and with a white underbelly.  The Golfo Dulce Anolis is slightly more robust and uniform brown in color, (at least the males), with a distinctive white stripe along the body behind the shoulder.  Both of these species live close to the ground, again facing head down but usually at the end of large leaves.

Golfo Dulce Anolis. Polychrotinae. Iguanidae.

Golfo Dulce Anole, (Anolis osae)

Green Canopy Anole. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Green Canopy Anole, (Anolis biporcatus)

The last two species in this immediate area is the Green Canopy Anole, (Anolis biporcatus), and the Lichen Anole, (Anolis pentaprion).  They both tend to live higher up in the canopy.  I see the Canopy Anole more often at night where I find it lying asleep on the tops of leaves.  It’s bright lime green coloration stands out quite nicely in the beam of a flashlight.  The Lichen Anole I have found at the top of the canopy.  It is grey in color with pale spots.  Both of these two anoles I only find very occasionally whereas the other three can be found without much effort.

Lichen Anole. Polychrotinae. Iguanidae.

Lichen Anole, (Anolis pentaprion)

Philip Davison is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica




Profile of a Killing Crew   Leave a comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Dec 12th 2011

Almost But Not Quite

The days are becoming drier, the sun is shining longer but there are still intermittent spells of cloud and light rain.  Although I wouldn’t put money on the fact, I think we have all but seen the back of the rainy season.  It won’t be too long though before everything becomes dry and dusty at which point everyone will bemoan the lack of water, except, of course, the visitors to the lodge.

As You Were

We had Roy Toft’s annual Photographic Workshop taking place at the lodge this past week.  The sun normally follows Roy to the Osa Peninsula and this year was no exception.  The guests arrived before breakfast and before they had time to unpack their bags, the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans landed in a palm tree in front of the restaurant to feed on the fruit. Breakfast was delayed as 8 happy photographers snapped away.  Not a bad start to the workshop.  The rest of the day continued in the same vein with troupes of Capuchin and Spider Monkeys making their way through the grounds.

The next day it was to be more birds in the grounds, and once again breakfast was put on hold as nature in action played itself out in front of the novice wildlife photographers.  The toucans were back in force, as were the Capuchin Monkeys, but what happened next was a once in a life time, if somewhat gruesome, opportunity for the photographers.  We at the lodge are used to the spectacle, but it is a surprise to most.  Some of the Capuchin Monkeys have learned how to catch the toucans and the photographers were treated to the scene of a massacre.  Held in morbid fascination, the photographers captured images of the demise of two toucans that were rendered apart by the monkeys, only the beaks remained to fall and hit the ground.

The next day they were practicing the art of macro photography and once again the wildlife complied.  Black and Green Poison Arrow Frogs were the subject of the morning shoot and in the evening it was the turn of the Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs.  They had a very successful day as the frogs appeared in abundance for the first time in many months.

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

Welcome Visitors

The rainfall has been encouraging a lot of insects to shelter in my cabin at night, especially when I am working with the lights on.  I have found a variety of moths on the window screens.  As the rain has been somewhat prohibitive in photographing anything outside, I just took advantage the fact that outside was coming to me.

Unidentified Katydid

Moths are frequent visitors but moths are not easy to identify.  This is one of the Automeris moths.  There are many Automeris species and they all have a common distinguishing feature.  The dorsal surface is muted in color but if something was to disturb the moth, it opens its wings to reveal two large orange eyes spots on the dorsal surface of the hind wings which serves to startle the would be attacker.  However when I tried to solicit a response from this individual, I only succeeded in causing to fly off.

Automeris sp

With some moths I just have to admit defeat for the present moment when it comes to identifications.  Rather I am  happy to enjoy their beauty and the fact that they chose to make an uninvited overnight stay on the screens of my cabin.

Unidentified Moth

Unidentified Moth

I have posted photos of the Rough-skinned Dirt Frog, (Craugastor rugosus), before, but juveniles.  One night as I went back to my cabin I found an adult sitting in the path.  I don’t find the adults that often so I managed to add that image to those of the young ones.

Rough-skinned Dirt Frog

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 83°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.46 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 3.23 ins

Average Daily Temp High 27.9°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.2°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 11.72 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 82.04 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel


  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Spectacled Owl
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Golden-hooded Tanager
  • Palm Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • House Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Common Basilisk
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Golfo Dulce 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
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Philaetria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus


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

Bosque del Cabo November 2010 Nature Review   2 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog Nov 2010 Review

I start my year, not as most people do on the first of January, but rather as the wet season ends and the dry season begins which is when I return to Bosque del Cabo.  During the height of the rains, I leave Costa Rica and spend some time in Nicaragua.  This affords me the opportunity to catch up on my writing, photographic processing and the data analysis of my projects.

When I do return, I endeavor to produce a weekly blog which serves as a weekly summary of my daily nature diaries.  As I am based at Bosque, it allows potential visitors to the lodge a glimpse of what is happening around the grounds in advance of their stay.  It may even sway people’s decision as what time of year to visit depending upon their interests.  For those people who have visited, it gives them the opportunity to stay in touch with the constantly changing nature of the lodge.

This coming season I will be starting my twelfth year at Bosque.  This past year, I finished collecting data and now I want to start publishing the results and conclusions.  The main aim of the work was to monitor the climate over a period of time and compare those figures against any changes in numbers of both individuals and species of butterflies and amphibians, the local populations of which were monitored over the same period of time.

To support the work I have been giving guided tours at Bosque del Cabo.  Having been a biologist since the age of 3 and with a lifelong interest in tropical rainforests, I can generally wax lyrical about most aspects of tropical biology.  But when you work in the forest, the amazing amount of fauna and flora that you experience really brings home the numbers.  Identification of the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians poses few problems but once you start looking at the smaller stuff, and regular readers of this blog will already know that is where I am generally looking, sometimes it is hard to get beyond family level.

Some years ago, I decided not only to help visitors understand the complexity of rainforest ecology through guided tours but also to write the information down.  At this moment in time, I have several prepublications almost ready.  To illustrate the books I bought a camera and started taking pictures.  As my interest is in the small things I concentrated on macro photography.  I had no previous experience and basically worked it out as I went along.  So, in essentially the review is a photographic record of some plant and animal life that may or may not have been covered in my blogs over the past year.  I hope you enjoy them; you can always leave a comment to let me know.

Scorpions you may find at any time of the year.  This one I found not too far from my cabin.  As scorpions are nocturnal and it was daytime, this individual was fairly inactive and consequently didn’t move while I was setting up the lighting to take its picture.  I like taking close up pictures of scorpions because a lot of body detail is revealed, details that you miss, especially with scorpions when your thoughts may be more concerned with the eradication of the creature.

Bark Scorpion (Centruroides limbatus)

I only ever encounter two species of scorpion at Bosque, both Bark Scorpions of the genus Centruroides.  This is Centruroides limbatus.  There are only 17 species of scorpion native to Costa Rica and none of them are particularly dangerous although they can deliver a very painful sting.

Bark Scorpion (Centruroides limbatus)





Spiders, as with scorpions, if you overcome your prejudices, make fascinating subjects to photograph.  Not only the interesting details of their life history, but their morphology and the use of silk.  Even if you can’t face getting too close to spider, many of them use silk to create ingenious food traps, so the webs can be photographed as stand alone features.

Silver-orb Spider (Argiope argentatum)

Butterflies abound at Bosque, especially if you visit in the dry season months of February and March.  In November the numbers of species and individuals will be low.  The longwings are long lived in butterfly terms and may survive for about 6 months.  At the end of that period though, they will be looking at little worse for wear as does this Postman, (Heliconius erato).  The colors of this butterfly are bright and attractive, which serve as a warning to stay away.  This is known as aposematic coloration.  Why would you best leave this butterfly alone?  It is packed with cyanide, so its consumption would not be so beneficial to you, nor to the butterfly if it was being eaten, so best for both parties to have that information broadcast.

Postman (Heliconius erato)

Even though I have spent my life studying butterflies, the numbers of species, the degree of mimicry and the lack of adequate reference material make them hard to identify.  Skippers are a particular problem.  They are small, fast flying, shades of brown and don’t like flash photography.  To capture their image requires a great deal of stealth and patience backed up with a lot luck as well as having your equipment set to the right settings before you embark on attempt.

Unidentified Skipper

The Automeris moth featured here was dead when I found it but nonetheless provided an opportunity to display the aposematic shock colors.  The bright eyes on the upper side of the hindwings are normally hidden beneath the dull colored upperwing.  Should a potential predator get too close, the bright eye coloration is revealed and hopefully allows the moth a few extra seconds to make good its escape.

Automeris moth sp

The larvae pose even worse identification problems than the winged adults.  The number of butterflies in dwarfed by the number of moths, most of whose life histories have not been documented and so the caterpillars remain a mystery.

Unidentified Moth Caterpillar

Fungi, despite their ubiquitous presence throughout the forest, once again may not prove to be the easiest things to identify down to species level.  But take a close look at the subtle color and texture of the fungal flesh and that in itself is worth a photograph.

Unidentified Fungus

One fungus found growing on dead wood in the forests of Bosque as well as all around the world, is the Jews Ear, (Auricularia auricular-judae).  Its jelly-like fruiting body is shaped uncannily like an ear.  Jews Ear derives from the fact that it is commonly found growing on elder trees, that which supposedly Judas Iscariot hung himself.

Jews Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)

Lizards will be found at every level of the forest from the tops of the trees to burrowing in the ground.  This is one of the most commonly encountered forest lizards, the Golfo Dulce Anolis Lizard, (Norops polylepis).  The males have a bright orange flap of skin under the chin, the dewlap, which they can extend.  It acts as a flag to either intimidate or scare rival males out of his territory or on occasion to court the females.

Golfo Dulce Anolis Lizard (Norops polylepis)

Pumas have been the big talking point at Bosque this year.  Unfortunately whenever I crossed paths with one of the cats, I never had my camera with me.  But only many separate occasions while out walking, I would see fresh tracks. This time I did have my camera.  In the following months we had so many guests staying at Bosque who did see the cats and did have their cameras.  Even if I did, I am sure it would be set up to take photos of something much smaller.

Puma print

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 84°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 1.04 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 31.18 ins

Average Daily Temp High 28.7°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.6°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 25.7 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 770.2 mm


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