Monday, March 12, 2012


   Well, it’s been a while since my last post, but there hasn’t been a whole lot to report.  I continue to spend the majority of my days caring for caterpillars and searching for butterflies in the forest. 

    Feeding the caterpillars is a pretty simple business, though it can get rather tedious.  They eat rather a lot, and require very fresh bits of leaf, so we have to feed them every day.  We keep them in small plastic cups (as you can see below), and each day we clean out the cups, put in a small piece of water-soaked cotton (to keep things from drying out), and give the caterpillar some new leaf (different species get different plants, but all the caterpillars eat some type of Passiflora, which are a type of tropical vines that include the passion-fruit). 

A Heliconius melpomene larvae awaiting new food.

The table at the insectaries where I feed larvae.

A pretty flower in the forest (that I think might be some type of Passiflora).
    On my collecting trips in the forest, I continue to see neat wildlife.  A few days ago, for example, I saw an antbird following an ant swarm.  Various species of ants in the tropics go on foraging raids, leaving the nest in large groups to find food.  Some bird species take advantage of these raids by following along and eating the insects that the ants rustle up.

Ant swarm (though they're a bit hard to see).

The antbird, looking for food.
   The research with the butterflies is going fairly well.  Mostly we’ve been focusing on establishing strong stocks of the two species that we’re studying.  One aspect of our research involves mating the two species together and raising hybrid offspring (I’ll discuss this more in future science breaks).  A hybrid female emerged from her pupae a few days ago, and I’ve attached a picture of her below, as well as photos of the two parental species.

Heliconius melpomene.  All that white material on the proboscis is pollen.  Heliconius eat pollen, a rare behavior in butterflies.  Some scientists hypothesize that the diet of pollen helps increase longevity; Heliconius live a long time for butterflies.

I found this picture of a Heliconius cydno on the internet, as I've been here for two months and haven't remembered to take on myself yet.
A hybrid offspring, produced by mating a H. melpomene male with a H. cydno female. You can see that the color pattern is very different.

Finally, I went to a new beach this weekend.  This time I thought of you, my loyal readers, and took  some pictures.

The view from one of our rented roof-things.

Another view, with an island in the distance.


  1. Tim,
    Thanks for the pictures. It is really fun to see all that you are doing. The beach looks fantastic! Very serene! Love, Mom

  2. The hybrid butterfly is very pretty! Take good care of it. I agree - that beach looks amazing!

    Love, KT