I’ve been seeing quite a lot of chatter on the web recently about a glasswing butterfly and wondered if it really existed. Then I saw this beautiful photo and had to investigate further:
Is this butterfly real? Well, the one in the picture above seems to be a hoax, which is disappointing because it is so pretty. I now call the one above the bubblewing butterfly because I discovered, there is in fact a real glasswing butterfly and here it is:
This beauty’s scientific name is Greta Oto and they do have transparent wings that average about 6 cm in width. The wings have borders in brown and orange that render them visible to human eyes, but serve them well when they try to hide from their natural predators.
The Spanish discovered them when they were exploring South America. Whoever discovered them first called them “espejitos” which means little mirrors. Today they are commonly known as glasswing butterflies.
They live in the South American rainforests and are quite abundant there. They feed on a variety of rainforest flowers and lay their eggs in the poisonous plant known as the nightshade. As the larvae grow they incorporate the chemical alkaloids (full of nitrogen) into their bodies thus rendering them very unappealing prey because of the way they taste. This chemical persists in their bodies even through adulthood.
Scientists believe their clear wings are an adaptation to help them hide from predators (at least the ones who haven’t learned how awful they taste!). Other varieties of butterflies use color to blend into their backgrounds.
The glasswing butterfly appears to have 4 legs instead of the 6 normally seen on butterflies. But the first two legs are very small and used only to smell and taste.
Greta Oto is another example of the wonders still left in nature. It’s exciting to think how many more we’ll discover!
I’m sorry the other hoaxed butterfly isn’t real – it looks like something that would live in Mr. Bubble’s world!
Til the next time!