Buttorfleoge, Rhopalocera or scaly wings?

Moths and butterflies, as you might gather, are very well represented in Costa Rica. It is estimated that there are roughly 10 000 species of Lepidoptera.


I have currently 1282 Lepidoptera photographs in my archives. Out of which only 151 are butterfly pictures, all others are attempts to capture moths. Why this disparity? Purely practical reasons.

Butterflies are extremely hectic creatures. They flitter and flatter hither and fro. Hence their Ænglisc name ‘fifealde’, the double Fs emphasizing their wild flattering movements. Since Anglo-Saxon is closely related to Old Frisian, the German word ‘Falter’ for these flattery things is easy to understand. Even the modern terms of ‘butterfly’ and ‘Schmetterling’ are closely related in meaning, even though they don’t appear to have anything in common. ‘Butter’, a creamy milk product and ‘Schmetten’, a Slavic-origin precursor of ‘Schmand’, refer to essentially the same, highly desirable, cholesterol-rich yummy stuff otherwise known as butter. ‘Tagfalter’ (day flatterer), the older German designation for butterflies, were often also called Buttervogel (butter bird), or Schmandlecker (cream licker), or Molkenstehler (milk thief). The Italian word for butterfly, ‘farfalla’, still echoes those flattering movements, which make it so very difficult for me to snap butterfly pictures, despite their overwhelming plentitude.


Moths, on the other hand, fly mostly at night and are therefore more likely to wind up stationary against our screen doors, ready to model for me. Most of those pictures, however, are of questionable quality, because the nighttime situation, naturally, makes lighting a wee bit problematic. If it’s not the velocity, it’s the photons!


The other night, I noticed a lepidopterian type animal perched on a lampshade. I’m hesitant to call it a moth, even though, at the time, I believed it to be a moth. I’ve since learned, it might have been a skipper. Not actually knowing anything about these insects, it’s hard to come to a definitive conclusion. When you look at the pictures, you might help with identifications. Thank you. Anyway, the alleged moth was a specimen, which I had noticed laying in a corner under a shelf earlier in the day. I presumed it to be dead and briefly considered getting a broom … laziness won out, though. But now, the formerly dead, alleged moth was happily enjoying the warmth emitted from our tall floor lamp.


I grabbed a camera, kneeled or knelt in front of the lamp and tried to capture the nicely patterned wings against the background of the pleated fabric of the lamp shade.

First of all, why are most object of interest either way high up or practically submerged below ground? Challenged by my advanced age and slippery intervertebral discs, it is very difficult for me to take pictures of anything, unless it happens to be hovering at eye level. Yet most of these inconsiderate arthropods insist on scuttling around at toe level. Maddening. I’m thus crouched in front of the skipperly moth, but the photo session isn’t going well. The flash explosion was much too stark, bleaching whole sections of the image, while the pictures without the flash support came out much too dark. Maddening indeed.

Since it was getting late and my joints were creaking, I just wanted to call it a day and move the mothy skipper outside, where it belonged. Having transported more than one rescue-lepidoptera on my hands lately, I just extended my finger toward the alleged moth and it promptly climbed up.

Perfect photo op! Except … the animal was perched on the pad of my right index finger. That’s the finger I normally use to depress the shutter release. Being of the ambidextrous persuasion, that shouldn’t bother me, right? Wrong. I was born a lefty, a lefty in a righty family, within a righty culture. However you want to twist it, I was taught very early on that only right handed persons are acceptable in proper society, so I learn to operate as a righty. I learned how to write and to cut with knives and scissors with my right hand. Because of this corrective action at a tender age, it now feels awkward to execute certain activities with my left hand, including working my camera. I was stuck with a moth on the wrong finger!

Fortunately our floor lamp is a sturdy, tall one, so in addition to providing light for the subsequent picture, it also provided a convenient scaffolding for my right, skipper-or-moth-bearing hand, as well as my south paw clutching the camera. It turned out to be quite easy to take this nice picture of my beautiful right index finger.


And the lepidoptera was cute, too.


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