Banded Purple Wing or Whitened Bluewing (Myscelia cyaniris)
The beautiful colors and patterns of this butterfly make it a popular species for butterfly gardens. This is fortunate as although it is not that rare in the wild, its behavior can make it difficult to see in the dense rain forests it prefers. Outside of butterfly gardens such as those in Vara Blanca and La Guacima, national parks such as Cahuita and Tortuguero provide good habitat for the Banded Purple Wing.
A rather small butterfly, the Banded Purple Wing is identified as one of the Bluewings by the shining sapphire blue of the upperwings that can appear black or positively neon depending upon how the light is reflected off the wings. The Banded Purple Wing can be separated from similar species by the white spots and barring on the upper wings. Somewhat like other butterflies with bright blue upperwings (the morphos), the underwings of the Banded Purple Wing are a mottled light gray that acts as excellent camouflage.
Behavior in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, the Banded Purple Wing prefers to stay hidden in the understory and subcanopy of dense rain forests. Unlike morpho species, this butterfly doesn’t fly very often; a trait shared with other butterfly species that likewise feed on rotting fruit and animal dung instead of on nectar. Instead, it spends a great deal of time resting on tree trunks, the cryptic coloration of its closed wings hiding it from birds. This species, like some other members of the Nymphalidae family, are (reaching the ripe old age of nearly a year) among the longest lived of butterflies.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
The Banded Purple Wing is a fairly common, if unobtrusive, butterfly of the wet lowland and foothill rain forests of the Caribbean slope. It frequents both the forest interior and the forest edge. This is another species that might provide good photo opportunities by coming to bananas placed in the garden of your hotel.