Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the August 15, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

At mid morning whole fleets of Elves come sipping nectar from Big Caltrop flfowers. The dark, orange-striped little Elves are MICROTIA ELVA. One is shown above. That's one with its wings wide open below:


Though these are exceptionally small butterflies with wingspans of only about 1-½ inches (3.8 cm), their lineage is nothing special. They're members of the huge Brush-footed Butterfly Family, the Nymphalidae, and the very big True Brushfoots Subfamily, the Nymphalinae. On the evolutionary Tree of Life that places them alongside ubiquitous checkerspots and crescents.

At mid morning as Elves flit from Caltrop blossom to blossom, you can see how the slightest breeze knocks their tiny forms about. Elves are alert little beings, and they need to be so, because they're so small that dragonflies can catch them. Sometimes I do see dragonflies darting among them but so far I've not witnessed a capture. The darting happens so quickly, though, that I'm not sure my mind would even register it if it did happen.

Elves are widely distributed from Venezuela north through Central America and Mexico, as far north as various spots along the US/Mexico border. At least one has strayed as far as eastern Missouri.