Owl Butterfly – Caligo sp.

Owl Butterfly – Caligo sp.
Range: Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador.
Family Nymphalidae – Brush-Footed Butterflies
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Butterflies in the genus Caligo are commonly called Owl butterflies due to the presence of large eyespots (ocelli) on the underside hindwings, which resemble the eyes of the familiar bird of prey. The function of butterfly (and all other insects') eyespots are not conclusively known, but it is thought they distract would-be predators.

Larvae of the genus feed on leaves of the banana plant, and are considered a major pest in South American countries that produce the crop.

Blue Morpho on left, Owl butterfly on right
Blue Morpho on left, Owl butterfly on right

Family Nymphalidae – Brushfoots or brush-footed butterflies encompass approximately 3,000 species worldwide, of which 160 or so live in or visit North America. This is a very diverse family of butterflies, and they occur everywhere except the polar ice caps. Their unifying characteristic is the reduced forelegs of both males and females [3]. The habit of holding the forelegs close to the body is shared with many other insects, including bumblebees, flies, bugs and beetles.

*Brassolini is a tribe usually placed in the brush-footed butterfly subfamily Morphinae, which is often included in the Satyrinae as a tribe Morphini. If this is accepted, the Brassolini become the sister tribe of the Morphini among the Satyrinae. Formerly, they were treated as an independent family Brassolidae or *subfamily Brassolinae.

The Brassolini contain 17 genera in two or three subtribes, depending whether the enigmatic genus Bia is assigned here as the most basal lineage. The other genera are divided into one small and more ancestral subtribe, and a more advanced one that unites the bulk of the genera [2].


  1. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders Chanticleer Press 1980
  2. Wikipedia, Tribe Brassolini
  3. Arthur Evans, National Wildlife Federation Guide to Insects & Spiders of North America
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Order Lepidoptera, which contains both butterflies and moths, includes at least 125,000 known species including 12,000 in North America. Butterflies are revered for their brightly colored wings and pleasing association with fair weather and flowers.
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