Alien Earthlings

in Drake Bay, Costa Rica

 

       Tracie "The Bug Lady"  invites you  on an out  of this world  walk on...

The Dark Side

Discover the hidden treasures of Drake Bay,  Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady"

Home

Tour Basics

Meet the Bug Lady

Tales from the Edge

Media

Reservations

Links

 

Click here to reserve a magical evening on The Night Tour

Facts about Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Travel To Drake Bay

Drake Bay Area Map

Hotel Information

Tips for Travelers

Tours

Recommended Reading


Frogs of Drake Bay Home Page

Mammals of Drake Bay Home Page

The Night Tour Blog

 

Hemeroplanes sp

The rainforest of the Osa Peninsula is truly a place of magic. Here, disappearing acts, trickery, and the art of illusion are masterfully crafted in the theater of life. Leaves may spring to life and walk before your very eyes. Bark can suddenly burst into flight. Twigs incredibly stride from tree to tree.

Our guests on The Night Tour often ask: “What is the most amazing encounter you‘ve ever had on the night tour?“. Our answer is always the same: Without question, none is more spectacular than an encounter with Hemeroplanes, a species of hawk moth caterpillar. Yes, a caterpillar.

A caterpillar may not seem so exciting considering that we do, on occasion, encounter Pumas, Ocelots, and even Tapirs on The Night Tour. The amazing transformation undertaken by the Hemeroplanes caterpillar, though, truly defies the imagination.

Hemeroplanes sp.

We have been lucky enough to encounter Hemeroplanes twice. Our first encounter happened on a cool, drizzly night during the month of August. It was toward the end of the night and we were headed towards town to drop off our guests. As we reached the suspension bridge which crosses the Agujitas River, I spotted a large caterpillar feeding on a plant about a meter off the trail.

We were immediately stricken by it’s size. Having never before seen this species, we bent down the leaf on which it was feeding to better observe and photograph it. At first glance, this large caterpillar was quite ordinary.

Hemeroplanes sp.

 

As Tracie lowered the caterpillar's branch and I snapped shots off with my camera, we realized that the caterpillar was changing....becoming something entirely different.

Hemeroplanes sp.

 

 

 

After posing placidly for a few shots, the caterpillar suddenly released the twig on which it was perched and hung dangling by its rear set of legs. It began to pull the tip of it's head inward, puffing out the front part of it's body.

Gradually, previously hidden shades of yellow, white and black lit up the caterpillar‘s new “face“.

Hemeroplanes sp.

 

 

 

Then, what appeared to be eyes, nostrils and scales slowly began to materialize.

It quickly dawned on us that this caterpillar was transforming into snake right before our eyes!

 

Hemeroplanes sp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In just a few seconds, Hemeroplanes looked much more like an Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schelgelii) than it did a caterpillar.

Just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any weirder.....it did. The caterpillar began to flail, as if trying to strike out at us!

We stood awestruck, watching this performance, a rush of questions whirling through our minds. Was this even possible?

Hemeroplanes sp.

 

 

Stunned by what we had just seen, we returned home and immediately began our search to identify this incredible caterpillar. We found a great source of information in 100 Caterpillars by Jeffrey C. Miller, Daniel H. Janzen, and Winifred Hallwachs.

 

 

 

 

Hemeroplanes sp.Based in Guanacaste and Penn State, Dan Janzen and Winifred Hallwachs have been conducting ground breaking research on the moths of Costa Rica, as well as many other topics, for over thirty years.

Janzen was instrumental in saving, reforesting and preserving the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hemeroplanes sp.

 

According to their incredible publication, this caterpillar is quite rare to see. They describe two similar species previously collected in Costa Rica: Hemeroplanes triptolemus occurs in the Dry Forest while Hemeroplanes ornatus occurs in the Rainforest. Presumably, the specimen photographed here is the later.

As caterpillars they feed on the leaves of apocynaceous vines. The adult moth is a drab gray, rather non-descript sphinx moth. The modest colors and shape of the adult moth leave no hint of it's spectacular previous existence as a "snake caterpillar".

 

 

References:

Miller, J.  Janzen, D.  Hallwachs, W.  2006  100 Caterpillars  The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Home    Tour Basics    Meet the Bug Lady

Tales from the Edge   Media   Reservations

Facts about Drake Bay, Costa Rica     Travel to Drake Bay      Drake Bay Area Map 

Hotels and Resorts in Drake Bay

Tips for Travelers     Tours in Drake Bay      Recommended Reading   Links

Contact us at  drakebaycostarica@gmail.com

 


This is the official site of The Night Tour with Tracie "The Bug Lady"

drakebaycostarica@gmail.com

Costa Rica Tel: (506) 8701-7356 / (506) 8701-7462

© 2014 Gianfranco Gómez and Tracie Stice.  All Rights Reserved. The use of any photographs, reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or stored in a retrieval system, without prior consent of the owner - is an infringement of the copyright law and is forbidden.

Site designed and maintained by Jungle Cat Productions