I’m sure I can guess what you’re thinking. What exactly is an owl butterfly and why is it named so? Well above you’ll see one of my pictures of this big and beautiful butterfly. The owl part of the name is because of that gorgeous owl eye they have on their wings. What is the purpose of this eyespot? Well, it’s to either scare off predators that might eat it and it has the double advantage of directing their attention if they do attack away from their main body. If they are attacked they can still escape and live another day.
These butterflies are especially fascinating because they are crepuscular which basically means they come out in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk as opposed to being diurnal like most. This fascinated me because I’ve been studying butterflies since I was a little girl and actually worked at a butterfly garden when I was twelve years old. I’ve never come across any with that adaption and was wondering why when I came across them before that they were resting while the other species were feeding and breeding.
The movements when they fly will make you smile or even laugh, they flap their wings heavy and sound like a bat instead of light and soundless like most. I have never seen any move quite like them with the clearly audible beating of their wings. They will chase each other for short distances and then end up on a leaf where they stay motionless. Their camouflage is so perfect especially if they are on a tree that they melt into the color of the bark except for their owl eye.
Now here is an amazing picture I was able to take of the Owl and the more popular and well known blue morpho. They are related to each other but as I was discussing with an entymotologist that they are more ‘kissing cousins’ with their relation. The blue morpho is that stunning butterfly with blue irredescent wings that refract the light to produce the metallic blue we see.
I kept asking at the special event why their behavior is so different from other butterflies. Moths are generally nocturnal though there are some who bend the rules in this. The consensus was it might be an adaption to predators to evade being eaten. When I did some digging online it turns out that they are from one of the oldest genera on earth, Brassolis. Yet again their fascinating crepuscular/nocturnal behavior wasn’t explained so I guess it’s a secret the Owls will keep.