By Robert Gallardo
Butterfly watching and photography is increasing in popularity with each passing year. Butterflies are usually easier to find and photograph than birds or mammals and they require less sophisticated camera equipment. Plus, they are usually more abundant than other groups of fauna. Add to the fact that many are brightly colored, and it’s no wonder that more people are getting into ‘butterflying.’
As the pastime gains momentum, people search for different places to visit to see new species. There are still relatively few annual butterfly festivals where one can go and see large quantities of butterflies, especially in the tropics. In 2020, Honduras began offering a five-day event centered around the species-rich Lake Yojoa basin. It is quickly gaining popularity where. Participants often observe up to 300 species in flower-filled gardens, on fruit feeders, and along forested trails.
Emerald Valley Butterfly Festival
This annual event focuses on Meambar National Park, Bio Parque Paradise, and Emerald Valley. All three sites offer a slightly different experience and butterfly species.
This year saw participants of the 2023 Honduras Butterfly Festival from the U.S., Canada, and Honduras, and specialist butterfly guides invited from the U.S., Canada, and Colombia. We based our outings out of Hotel Agua Azul, located along the scenic north shore of Lake Yojoa. From there, we ventured out each day.
We split the group for the first two days, taking turns going to Meambar N.P. and Bio Parque Paradise. At the crack of dawn at the hotel, there was a bit of activity on some
Days One and Two
Porterweed shrubs and a magnificent male Silvered Ruby-eye (Lycas argentea) were present. What a way to start the Festival! On the first day of the 2023 Honduras Butterfly Festival, we encountered cool weather with scattered rain, so the activity at both sites was pretty slow.
Nonetheless, we were able to record about eighty species, including the Golden Euselasia (Euselasia chrysippe) and Pale Ministreak (Ministrymon una).
The group that went to Bio Parque Paradise also had some outstanding species. The owner of Bio Parque has been expanding the mistflower gardens, and it’s starting to pay off. Different species show up yearly, some of which haven’t been recorded at Emerald Valley as Bio Parque is slightly lower in elevation.
Days Three, Four, and Five
All participants spent the next three days at Emerald Valley; a much-anticipated part of the Honduras Butterfly Festival 2023. Robert and Olivia have been undertaking intensive inventories on their fifty acres since 2015, and in January 2022, they reached 700 species. This amazing diversity was published in late 2022: Inventory of butterflies of Emerald Valley Nature Reserve, Honduras (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea) | Tropical Lepidoptera Research. As of this report, the property count stands at 720 species; virtually the same number of species that occur in Canada and the U.S. combined. This total also includes a recently described species (Emesis eleanorae), endemic to Emerald Valley. For more than five years, they have also been tendering and increasing the butterfly gardens, including many blue mistflowers. Each year, these flowers literally. attract clouds of butterflies from the surrounding rainforest, and after the blooming season ends, many species disappear for the remainder of the year.
Emerald Valley Day 1
The weather on first day at Emerald Valley was warm and sunny. In no time at all, the aroma from the mistflowers started to fill the air, and with it came the stars of the show. Butterflies poured in from the surrounding canopy and the interior of the rainforest. The action lasted all day as ‘new’ species crept in. To attract a different suite of butterflies we put out wood slab fruit feeders along paths. Healthy snacks and drinks were served throughout the day in a covered palapa and delicious lunches under a giant tarp. We can’t forget to mention the homemade cheesecakes cooked up by a real Chef! We tallied 180 species by the end of the first day at Emerald Valley.
Working with the other guides, David, Gilson, and Fredy was a pleasure, as we all had walkie-talkies; we would communicate to each other over the walkie-talkies whenever something especially ‘good’ was found so anyone else around could see it. On the first day, it almost seemed as if the participant’s heads were spinning as there were so many butterflies to choose from and take pictures of. It was all part of the fun and excitement of seeing so many species in such a small area.
Emerald Valley Day 2
The second day at Emerald Valley was as good as the first. Different species continued to appear in the gardens, on the fruit feeders, and others along the entrance road and side trails. It was difficult for any one person to be looking for butterflies at all the different spots. A small group of children came in from the nearby village and were attended by Allan who worked with us during the entire event.
Emerald Valley Day 3
New species appeared in the gardens daily, providing more opportunities to get photos. Finally, on the third and final day of the Honduras Butterfly Festival 2023, everyone returned to Emerald Valley to continue enjoying this peaceful refuge. Amidst the hordes of butterflies that wander into the mistflowers, one group stands out; the Sulphurs. They range in size from the tiny Barred Yellow to the giant Angled-Sulphurs. The flowers attract numerous species that primarily inhabit the rainforest canopy (Melete, Enantia) and rare species that live farther up the mountain at higher elevations or wander in from nearby dry forests.
By the end of the five days of the Honduras Butterfly Festival 2023, we had tallied up about 300 species, including a country-record skipper from Emerald Valley. Who knows how many thousands of photos were taken as a group, but we imagine it is A LOT. We are confident that everyone enjoyed the overall experience, including the camaraderie of friendly fellow butterfly enthusiasts, the meals prepared, and the swirling clouds of butterflies. And so concluded the 4th annual Honduras Butterfly Festival. The following day, some participants departed and returned to their homes while others continued to osearch for more butterflies on the north coast.
Annotated Species List for the Honduras Butterfly Festival 2023
Honduras Butterfly Festival 2024
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