The Glasswing Butterfly
By Rachele Baker, DVM – I recently saw a photo online of a glasswing butterfly and I was mesmerized with its unusual beauty.
Glasswinged butterflies (Greta oto) are primarily found in the rainforests of Central America including Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama, but have been seen as far south as Columbia and Venezuela in South America.
Although most butterflies ward off predators with their colored wings, the glasswing butterflys’ transparent wings help to camouflage them from predators. Their clear wings make it very difficult for predatory birds to track them when they are in flight. It is hard to follow the flight of the glasswing as it flits through the patches of light and shadow formed by the rainforest understory. You will see what I mean when you watch the following video of male glasswings engaging in “lekking.” Lekking is a ritual wherein a group of male glasswings participate in competitive displays to entice female glasswings to mate with them. Click on the photo below to go to the video of male glasswings lekking on “The Magic of Life Butterfly House” website.
During the courtship ceremonies of the glasswing butterflies, the males perform dazzling flight displays to win the attention of a female. During lekking, male glasswings also try to attract females with the scent of their sex pheromones which they release from small hairs along their rear wings. Adult glasswings ingest the nectar of flowers from the Asteraceae and Boraginaceae families. The Boraginaceae family of flowers include the Forget-Me-Not flower mentioned in the video above. Substances in the nectar from these flower families called pyrrolizidine alkaloids are used in the production of sex pheromones.
I captured this image of mating glasswings from the video on “The Magic of Life Butterfly House” website. It looks like this male really impressed the female and they made a love match (yes, I did notice the third glasswing intently watching from the sidelines – not sure what that’s about….).
Love is in the air…..
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