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Carara Garden

The Butterflies & Moths of Costa Rica

A staggering number of butterflies and moths inhabit Costa Rican forests from the dry northwest pacific of Guanacaste to the deepest rainforest jungles in the Osa Peninsula or unexplored Talamanca’s mountainous ridges of San Vito-Cotobrus. Every single natural or altered habitat in this tiny country of 19000 mi2 offers a mesmerizing experience for those who are attracted by butterflies and moths.

Although the number of butterflies in Costa Rica are many times less than their nocturnal counterparts they are for obvious reasons more attractive to the general tourism. Their importance to our economy is well established in places like Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano Area, Sarapiqui’s Rainforest and many other important touristic destinations. Dozens of families and maybe even hundreds benefit directly from the sustainable uses for gardens, exportation to museums of natural history or similar worldwide.

Many of these gorgeous creatures are iconic to our conservation efforts such as the Blue Morpho who had inspired a movie called Le Papillion Bleu or Owl Butterfly famous for its wing owl-like face. Nevertheless, this tropical gem offers more than 1500 species of diurnal butterflies and well over 12000 of moths. Yes, you read correctly, 12 K and with nearly 30 species of them are discovered monthly.  This is 90% of all species recorded in Central America and roughly 9% of all register on earth. For a country so small that can fit 335 times in Russia or 192 times in the USA and even 22 times in France.

Butterflies in general belong to a group call Lepidopters: Lepi=scales doptera=wings or scaled winged creatures, due the nearly invisible scales found on their wings which are the ones in charge of many important roles such as fly, temperature regulation, camouflage to mention a few.

Moths by the contrary are less known or less “attractive” to the public. Their dull colours seem to be a down side or maybe it is the fact that very few hotels, tour companies, tour operators don’t use them as a means of steady income. Due to the fact they don’t really know the overwhelming natural history of those nocturnal creatures, only a few places like Rancho Naturalista in Turrialba and some lodges in Corcovado have exploited its potential.

Due to the privileged geographical position and most importantly our very irregular topography with as many as 56 microclimates nationwide butterflies have found a remarkable land to exist.

In Costa Rica butterflies are a symbol of beauty and elegance. Many businesses have adopted them due their elegance and colours, to our ancestors they represented human souls.

The mind blowing number of butterflies found in Costa Rica can well be a future source of economic growth with well-prepared nature guides, painters, artists, drawings tours or for photography expeditions. Something that we as a company addressed very shortly with the purchase of new macro photography gear for rental during our nature tours.


The Butterflies of Costa Rica and their natural history by Philip J. DeVries Volume 1-2

Forest Canopies Academic Press Lownman et Nadkarni

The Insects an outline of Entomology Gullan et Craston 

Costa Rica Natural History Daniel Janzen


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