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Owl butterfly

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Owl butterfly
Scientific Classification
  • C. eurilochus
  • C. arisbe
  • C. atreus
  • C. oileus
  • C. beltrao

Owl butterflies include several species of butterflies that belong to the taxonomic genus Caligo. Their wing colors are part of what makes them such an interesting organism. They are known for the large dark "eye spots" on the underside of their wings that resembles an owl's eye. They are also very large creatures compared to others of their kind. They are often found in Central America or even in Peru. They live near banana crops or farming land so they can have easy access to food. The feeding stage is mainly the larvae stage which happens after the egg and before the adult stages. The Caligo butterflies are a marvelous example of the built in defense system that God gives His creations.

Body Design

Any butterfly's body can be divided into three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. The eyes, proboscis, and antennae are located on the head. The proboscis uncoils and acts as a tongue that allows the insect to drink up nutrients. The antennae on the other hand, act as a sensory organ that the organism doesn't have, a nose. The thorax is the center point of the animal where everything is attached. Both their wings and legs are located here. They use their wings to fly, but their legs are important as well. When landing on a flower, the bug uses it's legs to taste the petal. The abdomen, though, does not really have anything on the outer surface. More importantly, though, the reproductive system is housed in the abdomen of the butterfly. [1]

The upper side of an adult Caligo butterfly's wings.

The owl butterfly is a larger butterfly. It is normally a dull color like brown or a shady blue on the upper side of its large wings. On the underside, though, they have a large dark spot that resembles the eye of an owl. This could be considered as a protection system given by God. This marking often wards off predators that are afraid of the birds. [2] Butterfly wings are very important in general anyway, they are easily damaged but also vital to the insect's life. Harsh weather could drastically harm the delicate wings which would hinder the bug's flight. Also, if they find themselves in a cold environment, they might not be able to move at all. This is where the colors of their wings help with survival. [3]

Life Cycle

Owl butterfly larvae found most likely on a Heliconia leaf.

Often living in forests, the life cycle of a Caligo butterfly could last up to one hundred thirty-three days on average. Typically, they are just an egg from two to three weeks, a caterpillar for roughly two months, and held in a chrysalis for up to thirty days. [4] Eggs are usually laid in groups or maybe even singly. New eggs can often be found on Heliconia leaves and could be parasitised by wasps that ride on the backs of butterfly wings. These small eggs have ribs that protect the structure from all angles. These egg shells prevent any water loss but still allow the organism to breathe. The Caligo larvae seem to be gregarious and also nocturnal. Caterpillars that have darkened slightly are in the pupating stage of its life. They use silk to attach themselves upside down to plants as the chrysalis skin begins to form. [5] They are inactive during the day and camouflage themselves on dead leaves. These organisms are even thought to have some defense system that keeps dangerous ants away. These insects form a chrysalis by hanging from woody stocks or around dead leaves so they will not be easily noticed. [6]

Really, the Caligo butterfly's adult life is no different from any other type of butterfly. Once they come out of their dull colored chrysalis, they have formed into a slightly more colorful insect. It is completely unique from the rest of its life and no longer really a "feeding insect" like it was before. The only real purpose of this adult butterfly is to mate and produce eggs, which it often attempts to do as soon as it comes out of its chrysalis. They do this rapidly because as they get older, a butterfly's wings age and become rather tattered. With their wings in this kind of condition, a butterfly cannot fly as far and it becomes less likely for them to be able to scatter their eggs as effectively. [5] This last stage is also the longest portion of the butterfly's life. The adults reproduce to continue the generic life cycle of this insect.


Caligo butterfly feeding on fruit in possibly a sanctuary made to resemble its habitat.

The Caligo or Owl butterfly is most often found in the Amazon, southern Mexico, and Central America. They preside in many forests, but none with heavy rainfall, because with a lot of rain they would not be able to survive. This butterfly lives in lowland forests or agricultural areas where they can feed off of fruit. It could live either low on the coasts or in high altitudes and elevation. Most commonly it is found on the Pacific slope in Costa Rica. This forest and environment is ideal for the Owl butterfly because it can camouflage itself easily and stay away from predators. It also has a large food supply available near banana crops and around farms. They must stay away from excessive rain, though, because otherwise they might have to stay under cover for too long without food or they might possibly damage their delicate and important wings. [7]

Owl butterflies have similar predators compared to all other species of butterflies, but their unique wing colors give them a special defense compared to other butterflies. Birds and other flying predators prey more easily on the Caligo butterfly but less often because they usually fly about in the later hours when less predators are about. Because of their low flying speed though, they are easily caught by all predators. It seems correct that most Owl butterflies are preyed on by small lizards because they are out later in the evening. However, any butterfly predator that is not often attacked or preyed on by owls would seem to be a main predator of Caligos. [8]


All butterflies rely on their complex wings for flight, sun-bathing, and mating. The owl butterfly's wings, though, are even more important. These dark colored wings might not seem like anything important, but the dark spot on the underside may save the organism's life many times. This genus of butterflies are named "Caligo" because adults are carpuscular and only fly at night or early morning. Because of the darkness, when predators see their wings they immediately think that they are looking at an owl and not a butterfly. These pigments greatly aid the survival of Caligo butterflies. Caligo butterflies, though their camouflage is the most unique, are not the only butterflies that use this defense technique. [9]

Owl butterflies also use their wings to warm their bodies. Though they are not often out during the day, they are able to perch on trees and spread their wings to warm the veins that run through them. The main reason that this butterfly cannot live in forests with heavy rainfall is because if their wings get to cold they will not be able to fly. Flying, though Caligo butterflies cannot travel long distances, is a very useful skill for a butterfly. The Caligo genus cannot fly for a long length of time because they are so large. Their wing-span and body size are larger than average. The wings over all are very important to this invertebrate. [10]


Emerging of the Caligo butterfly from its chrysalis. Recorded by the ZSL London Zoo.


  1. Butterfly Body Parts Think Quest. Web. 2 December 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  2. The Owl Butterfly - Facts and Interesting Information Hub Pages. Web. 29 November 2011 (Date-Published).
  3. Wilson, Tracy. How Butterflies Work. How Stuff Works. Web. 2 December (Date-Accessed).
  4. Owl Butterfly (Caligo memnon) Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Web. 30 November 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Life of a Butterfly Waterfall Gardens. Web. 2 December 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  6. Hoskins, Adrian. Oileus Owl butterfly Learn About Butterflies. Web. 30 November 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  7. Strieter, Amy Owl Butterfly Anywhere Costa Rica. Web. 10 December 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  8. Predators and the Owl Butterfly Wiki Answers. Web. 10 December 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  9. Owl butterfly - Caligo Idomeneous About Insects. Web. 11 December 2012 (Date-Accessed).
  10. OwButterfly Wing Anatomy Enchanted Learning. Web. 11 December 2012 (Date-Accessed).