Sunday, July 26, 2015

Honduras: Night Time Critters

After a long day of exhausting birding in the rainforest, wouldn’t you just want to relax with a delicious dinner and a cocktail? Yes, but then you’d also want to go check out the nightlife. And I don’t mean bars or clubs – I mean looking for the nocturnal critters that are now up and about to start their day, or night, I should say.

A large gecko - perhaps a Turniptail Gecko?

A smaller gecko - maybe Lepidodactylus lugubris

When we first arrived at the Lodge at Pico Bonito in the evening, we walked around the grounds with our flashlight and phones scoping out for some really cool bugs and herps that may be hanging about. But on our first full day out, we walked by a mercury vapor lamp with a white sheet set up on a frame of PVC pipe. Once we knew it was there, we would go every night to check it out, and it never disappointed. In fact, it delighted.

The moth sheet

Arctiine Tussock Moths - clockwise from top left: Halysidota atra, Amaxia sp., Phaeomolis lineatus, Idalus dares, Trichromia atta

Every night, we’d cover ourselves up in pants and hooded sweatshirts, not just to brave the much cooler evenings, but to also try as much as possible to see the night-time critters up close but keep them out of our ears and clothes. (Nick was not always so successful on the latter front). It was a Catch 22 at times – we’d want to get closer to see some awesome moths and bugs, but at the same time we didn’t want them flying or buzzing right in (or into) our faces. 

Bombycidae family

Come to the soothing green glow...

The “moth sheet” was always full of fun invertebrates – moths and bugs galore! They just couldn’t help themselves from getting close to that bright, greenish glow. There was a range of all sizes, from the tiniest pinky-nail sized beetles to the gargantuan almost hand-sized Sphinx moths.

A Satin Moth (about the size of a half-dollar coin) and a tiny other moth

A Satin Moth can look like a cross between a bat and a bunny. 

Adhemarius ypsilon

We acted like kids in a candy store, constantly saying to one another, “Oooooh, look at this one! Oh wait, this one is so awesome! Oh, you gotta come check this one out!” You get the picture. I never thought I’d be so giddy at the sight of moths, but when you see as many as we did and in such an array of colors, shapes, and sizes, you’d be pretty stoked, too!

Bombycidae sp?
Tiger moths (Hypercompe sp.) - Can you find the dog and puppy faces?!?

Some of these moths were just other-worldly with super “furry” legs and/or bodies. Others were just stunningly beautiful, as they had just the most vibrant colors and intricate patterns. We’d spend an hour or more just scanning every inch of that sheet, ooo-ing and awww-ing and snapping pics of some of the most incredible moths we’d ever seen. 

Flannel Moths
Lasiocampidae family (bottom right is questionable)

The sphinx moths were my favorite – so stealthy-looking and stoic. Once they landed on the sheet, they stayed in one place the whole time. When we attempted to pick them up, they totally lost their cool and flapped like crazy like a fish out of water. However, Nick was the sphinx moth whisperer, and he was able to coax them back to their zen-like state.

Nick with a Sphinx moth

Sphinx Moths - Pachylia darceta (bottom left), Xylophanes acrus (bottom right)

Nick coaxing the very large Adhemarius ypsilon 

We weren’t the only ones who were enjoying the plethora of moths and insects. A few toads would hang out right underneath the sheet waiting for a frazzled critter to fall towards the ground and become an easy meal. We mostly saw HUGE Cane toads, the size of grapefruits. But every so often, we’d also see what I believe were Gulf Coast Toads.

Cane Toad

Gulf Coast Toad

Now that we’re back home, we are now having a time trying to figure out what we saw and identify as best as possible, at least by family. This is no easy feat as some didn’t look like moths at all. Some looked like wasps or even cockroaches! In the rainforest, everything was wild and new and so exciting, even the most unlikely of critters. 

Sematura lunus - We saved this large, lovely moth from certain death by a nearby hungry toad 


  1. Facemelting. Astonishing. The mind reels.

  2. Sweet Jesus that last moth is like the entire Fantasia movie condensed into an insect.