The Glasswing Butterfly

Note the blue wings on this butterfly from the Ithomiinae subfamily. This butterfly is actually a Glasswing Butterfly; it's wings are as clear as glass. The stained-glass effect you see in this photo is actually just the effect of my strobe flashes.

You can see the vegetation behind these wings. The wings of these delicate jungle butterflies give them an ethereal elusive quality.

Glasswing Butterfly

There are 370 Ithomiini clearwing butterflies in the world, ranging throughout Latin America. Their invisibility, along with their preference for certain types of plants, gives them a bizarre smell and taste that every type of animal, from bird to mammal to insect, despises.

These butterflies can afford to be delicate, ethereal jungle dwellers because they have cornered the market on assuring their safety by emitting unusual odors, making them unpalatable to everything that may wish to eat butterflies.

Why Do Glasswing Butterflies have Transparent Wings?

Scientists believe it's an effective form of camoflage in dim light situations. Indeed, when a Glasswing Butterfly is at rest, it appears to blend into the background, and it's non-transparent edges are hardly visible. Imagine a snake with its poor eyesight looking for prey in the tangled vines of the forest floor, and you'll see the evolutionary advantage of butterfly transparency.

Magazines Usually Refer to Only One Glasswing Butterfly, the Greta Oro. Are there others?

It's curious why one species of Glasswing tends to get all the attention. In fact, there are many dazzling species. For example, this the Pink Glasswing Butterfly, sometimes known as the Blushing Phantom. This transparent butterfly simply cannot be photographed. The effect in real life is of glowing pink matter floating through the dark jungle, one of the great sites of the rainforest to behold.

Birds of North America Poster

A Pink Glasswing Butterfly found in the jungle along the Napo River in eastern Ecuador.