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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Butterflies of Panama and Their Amazing Transformation.

Updated: Apr 24, 2023


Can you think of a time when you made such a dramatic change in your life it physically hurt or it was so radical you actually looked differently afterwards? Growing pains and puberty are arguably painful processes, but I was thinking last week when we were talking caterpillars that it has got to hurt metamorphosing from a spiny little caterpillar to a butterfly. What happens to those venom infused spikes? Just how does this happen?


This is actually quite mind blowing if you don't already know (I obviously forgot what I learned as a kid). I don't have a fancy scientific vocabulary so I'm going to simplify this as much as possible as if we were walking through our Eco Resort property with a col-col beer in hand.



The stages go like this: egg - larva (caterpillar) - pupa - butterfly. The timing in each of those stages depends on the species. But, that's not really much information so let's dive a bit deeper. Starting with the spiky caterpillars like we saw last week, it can't very well curl up into a ball and swaddle itself, it's a bit more complicated than that. What they do is molt! As caterpillars, they eat and eat and eat until they are so full of energy they can begin the transformation from spiky scary caterpillar to a beautiful colorful butterfly that we are all unsuccessfully trying to photograph. Belly full, it's time to simply change into a completely different animal. No big deal. So the caterpillar finds a cool hangout spot and builds an anchor to attach themselves upside down. This anchor, as well as the rest of the silky threads they use to stabilize themselves during metamorphosis is secreted from spinnerets located along side their mouth and body. Safely anchored, they molt or shed their caterpillar skin. Ciao venom-filled spikes! This is a very similar process as when our guests depart the cold airport in Panama City to catch their shuttle in the heat of a Panama day. That down jacket quickly finds its way to the bottom of the bag. Much like finding a parking spot in Casco Viejo, this is when the hard part begins. Now hanging from that silk anchor you see a chrysalis or a cocoon with a pupa inside instead of a fuzzy caterpillar. Inside there is some seriously crazy science is going down. Behind those closed doors, enzymes are secreted that break down the pupa tissues and create a chunky stew inside the cocoon. Those chunks are bits and pieces of the pupa that are re-used to build the butterfly. These are my kind of recyclers. The chunks in that stew are actually little sacs full of cells that create different parts of the butterfly. Think of it like pieces of a transformer - an insectobot! They open, unfold, and when all put together become a big beautiful butterfly that hatches from the pupal case. Simple enough, right? So, if you're in the cold winter up north, dreaming of some time adventuring in the jungles of Panama, we are here for you and look forward to hosting you in this magical place.

Your Friends in Morrillo, Cari and Ryan Mackey Owners and Hosts Morrillo Beach Eco Resort

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