Sunday, January 07, 2007

Butterfly Breeding

I went to Monteverde to check out the rainforest reserve and I stumbled upon a mariposario (butterfly garden) where I received a quick lesson in butterfly breeding. I thought the reproduction process would be complicated, but with a little chat with a specialist (the woman pictured above) I realized that it is fairly simple. She taught me about the most important aspects of butterfly breeding - from when the eggs are first laid, to the growing larva, to the forming pupa, and finally to the emerging adult. As we talked, it took me back to the third grade when I first learned about the amazing life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. This woman (whose name, I am embarrassed to say, I have forgotten) never went to school to study; she is a self-taught expert and has been working with these creatures for over 25 years. I asked her if she had an email address in case I had any questions in the future. She looked confused, then chuckled and gave me her home phone number.
She told me "Primero..." (first), after choosing a species, you must know what plant the caterpillar of that species eats. This is the plant where the mother will lay its eggs to ensure that her babies have a sufficient food supply after birth. The temperature must be higher than 76 degrees F (around 80 F is optimum). This is especially critical when the caterpillar decides to build its chrysalis. When the caterpillar is full-grown, it makes a silk pad on the leaf where it attaches itself in preparation for the chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis nothing new is created; instead, the wings, legs, and other parts of the butterfly are formed through the modification of already existing parts of the larva. When the butterfly emerges, it must find a new source of food because it has developed a proboscis (a long tube-like mouth) and is unable to consume solid food. For the adult butterfly, the flower and nectar are the sources of its nutrition.
I followed up this conversation with a visit to the library at the National Museum in order to research specific species. There I took notes and dreamed of the design of Finca Project's butterfly breeding house. We will work with the local high school students to create breeding houses at the high school as well as on our farm.

Butterflies play a vital role in the pollination of many tropical rainforest plants. Some plants and butterflies have developed co-dependent relationships. If one specific species of butterfly were to die, the plant that it pollinated would quickly follow its fate.

Today butterflies.......tomorrow bees!

So long from the Finca,

No comments: