Butterflies and moths are prized for their beauty. Their aesthetic, ironically, elevates them beyond the lowly physical world inhabited by those which creep and crawl and onto a different plane, that of the ideal. Idylls of beauty, whose brief and beautiful lives evoke a romanticism straight out of an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem: "O Death in Life, the days that are no more!"
The names an eloquent role-call of elegance:
The Lady slipper butterfly (Pierella hyalinus):
Or conjure mystery, like the White witch moth (Thysania zenobia):
There's a dainty delicacy to their polite sipping, never slurping, of nectar through a proboscis; as this butterfly at a costa flower:
But rarely does biology follow such romantic, anthropomorphic re-imaginings. So let us fast forward from the Saccharine to the Shakespearean: "Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds". Caterpillars (Riodinidae) chew through the Costa flower, gone is the picture of beauty.
Oh unholy of alliances, fraternizing with the lowly arthropods...
I can't even...
Of course this substitution of simple, idyllic beauty for the biological complexity and fascinating natural history stories of each organism in its own right is still one which we grapple with, as we struggle to appreciate the so-called "Shakespearean weeds", vermin, cockroaches, all fascinating, all beautiful...
The above scene is actually a complex mutualistic relationship in which the exudate from the rear spigots is a nutritional supplement, essentially an analogue to honeydew which acts as a potent behavioural manipulator for the ants. These myrmecophilous relationships are widespread within the neotropical metalmarks and illustrate beauty in complexity.
A Urodid moth weaves a basket cocoon suspended by a long silken strand, a dual strategy. Its suspension in space a strategy to prevent predation, and its silken cage a protection from parasitism.
A caterpillar that didn't think ahead (evolutionarily speaking of course), becomes a meal for a wasp:
Thanks for looking and commenting,
Images of undisturbed subjects in their natural environment. All subject types.