South American Moth
Location: Ecuador (rain forest)
December 13, 2010 11:40 pm
I took this photo in an Ecuadorian rain forest about 15 years ago. It was taken in a butterfly house where the locals were breeding and selling them (so I am not sure if it is even native to South America).
I would truly love to know what it is?
Signature: Susan Kronick (Toronto, Ontario)
This is a butterfly, not a moth. It is an Owl Butterfly in the genus Caligo, a group of South and Central American butterflies that have an excellent method of protective mimicry. The undersides of the wings look nothing like the upper sides of the wings that you have photographed. The reverse sides of the wings are brown with markings that somewhat resemble feathers, and there is a large prominent black spot with a bright yellow ring around it on each lower wing. These spots look like eyes. When the butterfly is threatened, it assumes an upside down pose displaying the eyespots. This startles the predator into thinking that what might have been a tasty insect morsel is actually a large predatory owl and that the former predator might become prey. We wish you also had a photo of the undersides of the wings to illustrate this. A web search of images of Caligo butterfly will show you many examples. We believe your specimen might be Caligo eurilochus based on a photo we found online. The Neotropical Butterflies website gives it the common name Forest Giant Owl and indicates it may be the subspecies Caligo eurilochus mattogrossensis, thought the Neotropical Butterflies website also has a subspecies Caligo eurilochus livius. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums website states: “Adults are crepuscular and often sip on fermented fruits on the ground. Caterpillars feed on leaves of bananas and heliconias and can cause damage in banana plantations. They are nocturnal and rest at the midrib of the leaves during day, sometimes in groups. The older and brown caterpillars rest on the stem where they are difficult to detect.”
A butterfly! Imagine that. All these years I thought it was moth because it was resting with its wings flat.
But what a very interesting butterfly. I appreciate all the information and links.
I will check my photos from the trip to see if I did happen to get a shot of its underside.
Thank you so much. You made my day!