Orange Barred Tiger (Dryadula phaetusa)
Its bright colors and preference for open areas make the Orange Barred Tiger a fun butterfly to watch. Birds probably think so too, although they avoid attacking these butterflies because the bright colors act as a warning to stay away. This species is, however, not believed to be very toxic and is thought to be a Batesian mimic, or species that mimics the coloration of similar, more toxic species.
The Orange Banded Tiger is a medium sized, unmistakable butterfly species. The bright orange coloration with thick black stripes on the wings make this an easy butterfly to identify. Although the black stripes on the wings of females are not as sharp as those of males, they are still readily recognizable as being Orange Banded Tigers. The wings of this species are fairly long and broad, and are held flat when the butterfly is resting or basking on the sun. When this butterfly feeds on nectar, it often holds its wings up to reveal the undersides. Like many other butterfly species, the Orange Barred Tiger show a different pattern on the underwing. Unlike other butterfly species, though that of the Orange Barred Tiger is just as striking as the colors on the upperwing; instead of bright orange, it shows orange and blacks stripes that impart a “Halloween” look.
Behavior in Costa Rica
Like other species of open habitats, the Orange Barred Tiger becomes most active on warm, sunny days, fluttering in low areas of second growth and brushy fields. On cooler, overcast days with rain, you will probably have to search for this species in bushes and low vegetation where it unobtrusively roosts as it waits for the weather to clear.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
Despite being a butterfly species of open, non-forest habitats, the Orange Barred Tiger is not as common as one might expect. Although not a rare species, it is by no means abundant except in butterfly gardens where it is easily bred. Its relative paucity might be related to the fact that Costa Rica was historically heavily forested, a factor that would have made the Orange Barred Tiger far more rare in Costa Rica’s past than during present times. The localized distribution in open areas of its main food plants, Passion-fruit vines, is the other factor that probably explains why this butterfly isn’t more abundant. Look for this species in gardens of hotels, on golf courses, and in other open areas of the lowlands.