So, what does one do when living on a butterfly farm? Well, if your planning to write a book about the experience, you try to melt into the background and watch what’s going on around you, popping up here and again to ask questions; you try things out when given the chance, and you take lots and lots of notes. That’s how I spent most of my time in Costa Rica.
Behind me in the image above you can see one of the seven greenhouses on the farm. Each was populated with several butterfly species in either the egg, caterpillar or adult life stage. Farm workers pass through the greenhouses three times each day: once to collect pre-pupal caterpillars, once to train plants and pull weeds, and a last time to hunt for the nasty critters who like to eat caterpillars. You know, giant grasshoppers, snails, bullet ants, rodents … and poisonous snakes.
We actually came across this snake while scouring property around the farm for wild butterflies. We were told it was a fer-de-lance, arguably the deadliest snake on the planet, and we wouldn’t have gone near it if it weren’t for the fact that it had been sliced nearly in half by a machete. Yes, the locals sometimes carry machetes. In case they run into snakes. Alrighty then.
For a science geek like me, meandering around the farm was fascinating. (Deadly snakes notwithstanding.) The fact that I was traveling with another science geek, Museum of Science butterfly curator Lea Morgan, and a science geek-in-training, photographer Ellen Harasimowicz, made the adventures all the more memorable. Here are some shots Ellen took of Lea and I studying a fearsome greenhouse caterpillar. Sorta reminds you of a snake, doesn’t he?
There was a lot to love about life on the farm: unexpected adventures, tropical climate (in February!), sleeping inside mosquito netting, an open-air office overlooking orange and banana trees, and, of course, the butterflies. There were a couple things that would have lost their charm had I stayed much longer: the complete absence of hot water, the critters (a lizard! a bat!) that kept visiting my room, the frightening things that the intense humidity did to my hair. All in all, though, I’d go back in a heartbeat.
I’m still typing trip notes and will likely have one more post of Costa Rica goodies to share … including near death experiences in the rainforest canopy. Stay tuned!