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"If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.
"
~Author Unknown
... Daily Inspirational Quotes

April 2, 2007

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The Glasswing Butterfly

Glass-wing ButterflyGlass Wing ButterflyGlasswing Butterfly

"But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire."

~Robert Frost, "Blue-Butterfly Day"


The "Greta Oto" is a brush-footed butterfly, and is a member of the clearwing family with transparent wings.
Its most common English name is Glasswing, and its Spanish name is Espejitos, which means "little mirrors." Indeed, the tissue between the veins of its wings looks like glass. Native to Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, the glasswing butterfly is usually observed feeding or flying high in the subcanopy of the tropical forest in the Andes Mountains.

All things beautiful do not have to be full of color to be noticed; often that which is unnoticed has the most power. Rivaling the refined beauty of a stained glass window, the translucent wings of the Glasswing butterfly shimmer in the sunlight like polished panes of turquoise, orange, green, and red. Members of the species frequently inhabit elevations of approximately 1,400 meters. Well adapted to the Andean climate and elevation, Glasswing butterflies seem incessant in their zigzagging pursuit of flower nectar. Members of the species do not like to rush their meals and may spend hours on a single flower bloom while nectaring. A particular favorite of adult Glasswings is the flowering jungle cucumber vine. Glasswing caterpillars, however, are not such dainty eaters. The larvae rapaciously munch on the leaves of plants, including the deadly nightshades, oleanders, and dogbane. From the poisonous food plants, the Glasswing larvae gather toxic alkaloids, which make them unpalatable to predators.

As delicate as finely blown glass, the presence of this rare tropical gem is used by rain forest ecologists as an indication of high habitat quality ... and its demise alerts them of ecological change. When human populations grow, butterfly populations tend to shrink. As part of the growing international trade of butterflies, specimens are often taken from the wild, but, fortunately, may also be cultivated for sale on butterfly ranches. Intensive use of agrochemicals for farming in the Andes greatly threatens the Glasswing species and its associates. Other activities that make room for man, such as extensive logging and coal mining, also devastate the crucial habitat of the Glasswings. Thus, the future of the exotic Glasswing butterfly is uncertain.

The evolution of the word butterfly came from the Old English term buttorfleoge — literally saying "the butter flies" apparently because butterflies were thought to steal milk. In some cultures the butterfly can symbolize transformation or rebirth into a new life after being inside a cocoon-like existence for a while. One Japanese superstition says that if a butterfly enters your guestroom and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you. In Chinese culture two butterflies flying together is a symbolism for a loving couple, as related in a famous Chinese folk story called Butterfly Lovers (a Chinese Romeo and Juliet). The Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu once had a dream of being a butterfly flying around without any cares about humanity. When he woke up and realized it was just a dream, he thought to himself "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?" (For more trivia go HERE.)


Glasswing Butterflies

(Contributed by Gabrielle who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico)


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