06 November, 2010

Belize Butterfly of the Week #1 – Stinky Leafwing, aka Cecropia Orion, Historis odius

One of my goals for our October trip to Belize was to get more (and better) photographs of butterflies and moths. I thought they might be attracted to ripe/rotten fruit, so I put some very ripe banana out on a conveniently-situated horizontal trunk of sea grape tree that was visible from our veranda in hopes of attracting moths and butterflies that I could photograph from the veranda with my long(ish) lens. I was almost immediately rewarded with the appearance of this large butterfly called a stinky leafwing. It was a wonderful subject for photography because once it started feeding, it was not easily disturbed, even when I approached within 4 feet of it. 
If you click to enlarge the 2 photos below, you can see an ant crawling along this butterflies proboscis.   In the second photo, it has pulled its proboscis out of the banana as the ant has climbed closer to its mouth.  Right after that photo, it flicked its wings and rolled it proboscis up to dislodge the ant.
The next 2 photos of what seems to be the same individual as above were taken late afternoon the next day.  I was trying to add in a bit of light with the flash, and that seemed to startle the butterlfy.  The second photo looks like a multiple exposure as an unintended consequence of the flash.  It turned out sort of interesting, giving a hint of the orange portion of the upperside of the wings.
Here is little more of the upperside orange showing on a less beddraggled specimen.
 And in a pretty tattered one that is feeding on tree sap.
You can easily see why it is called a leafwing, especially when it is hanging upside-down.  
 Or even on its side.
When the light catches them, the antennae are a distinct burnt orange color and the proboscis is yellow.
My first experiment in luring butterflies with banana was a great success, but I really prefer seeing the butterflies on "an unbaited field" with totally natural behavior.  The good thing about the banana lure was that it allowed me to get my eyes attuned to seeing these butterflies and to know that they were in the area.  Doens't it always seem that spotting the first one is always the hardest, then you see them (whatever "they" happen to to be) everywhere?
These butterflies are also called Cecropian Orions because they lay eggs on the leaves of Cecropia trees on which the caterpillars feed (don't know what the Orion bit is a bout, though). These trees are common throughout Belize and we have quite a few at our place. You can be sure that I will be looking for the eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises when I return.


  1. This is very interesting and beautiful. Thanks for sharing this information on the web because it does so much in get out the information on how beautiful and pristine Belize is.

    I have a similar effort ongoing that I have recently started which is called Belize Travel Search Engine. Really the site that be used to focus on type of search on Belize and I find it it very useful and interesting.
    If you have the time to spare please take a look and leave us your comment since it is an evolving concept (baby stage) and would like for it to mature. I make no money off this and currently have kept ads away.

    Also I would great appreciate if you could include a link to our site:

    Belize Travel Search

    Belize Travel Blog

    I have posted a link to this article on my blog for people who find my site to wen their way to yours.

    Thanks and Best Regards,


  2. Beautiful close ups Wilma.
    have a great Sunday.

  3. Good photos - you must be using some kind of macro lens for the closeup. When I try butterflies, it is usually with the long lens, and that has close up limits - and of course, interesting info on another part of Belize.

  4. Great pictures - have a friend up north on Ambergris Caye who does lots of butterfly shots too.

  5. Lovely detail in these shots Wilma.

  6. GreatBelize -- thanks for stopping by. I checked out your site and see some good potential. I will add a link to it from this blog. Thanks for putting mine on yours.

    Costas -- always good to see your comments. thanks!

    Chris -- for most of these photos I used my 75-300 zoom lens with a focal length between 210 and 300mm. For one, I used my 18-55mm lens at 55. For some other butterflies I was able to approach slowly enough to use the 55mm before they flew off.

    Taco Girl -- photogrpahing butterlfies is an addictive hobby!

    Keith -- thank you, Keith. These are the best shots culled from more than I care to count. Glad we are in the digital age because i sure couldn't afford to do this with film!

    thanks to all for commenting.


  7. Wow! Wilma, these are great images.
    You certainly achieved the object of the exercise.

  8. Wow what a beautiful butterfly and very nice pictures Wilma.... I also use my 300mm lens to get pictures of butterflies, but I realize during my trip to France that if you go early in the morning just for the first ray of sun, then the butterflies do not move because of the mist and then you can use a macro lens ;-) It's easier ;-)
    I love a lot your fourth and last pictures....

  9. Roy -- glad you like them. :-)

    Chris -- I will give your technique a try. Dennis got tired of hearing me complain about changing the lenses back and forth on the camera, so he bought me another camera back; now I can use both lenses at the same time! ;-)

    thanks for visiting,

  10. A great series of photos Wilma. By the size of the ant it looks to be a large butterfly.

  11. Lovely photos Wilma and Stinky Leafwing is such a great name, I love it!

    I have seen the overripe banana method mentioned before, I shall definitely try it myself next year :)

  12. John -- you are correct. They measure 3.5 to 4 inches from the tip of the top wing to the bottom of the hind wing. They look almost like a small bat when they fly.

    Jan -- glad you like it. ;-) They seem to make holes in the banana into which they plung their proboscie and once they start feeding, they are completely pre-occupied. Makes is easier to approach them.


  13. Absolutely amazing pictures, Wilma. How wonderful to be able to get so close. Hope your Minnesota day improves and many thanks for your kind comment - the wood was a lovely place.

  14. Emma -- glad you like the butterfly. It is not as dreary today, but it has started to snow again. Well, that is winter for you!


  15. Hi Wilma, this is a beautiful butterfly and you got some great shots. Belize sounds so fascinating. I'd love to see the caterpillars and the chrysalis later.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. I'd love to visit here often. Have a great week!

  16. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences about this beautiful place. I am really impressed by the natural beauty of the place. Thanks a lot.


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